Is It Okay To Read Holes to Younger Kids?

Remembering the book and the praise the book received (not to mention the fact that it was taught in many classroom), I decided to start reading it to my boys, who are aged almost 6 and 7.5.

I watched the movie Holes years ago after my brother read it in school. By the time Holes came out as a movie, I was already out of school and I had little interest in the movie, which was made more for teens. I remember watching it because there was nothing else on, and I thought it was okay.

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zero is my man 👊

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But since it had been made into a movie and had won some awards (and is taught in classrooms), it was probably an alright book to read to the kids. Right?

Yet again, this is one of those times when I wished I had read the book first on my own before starting it with the kids.

And not because the book is full of cursing or violence. To be fair, there are some pretty mature scenes in the book, and some grown up topics.

Without giving you spoilers, below is a list of some of the events that have come up in the book. And I can’t tell you how the book ends (or spoil it for you) because the kids and I still have 80 pages left to go.

  • the main character gets arrested
  • the main character ends up getting sent away from his parents to a camp where the kids have to dig holes to build character
  • the kids don’t have enough water to drink and are thirsty a lot
  • the kids suffer
  • the kids hurt each other and no one takes care of their wounds
  • the kids aren’t in school
  • the other kids bully the main character and say things sarcastically
  • the adults taking care of the kids call them names (like “stupid”)
  • the adults point guns at the kids
  • the “Warden” character is sadistic, and uses violence to make her points (hurting the other adults and the kids)
  • there is a sub-plot in the story where two characters kiss (not a big deal except that one of the characters was white and the other was black and the town found out and lynched the black man)
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💙Raise your hand if you love this book or this movie! 🙋🏻‍♀️ 💙This is my sister’s favorite book, which is a big deal since she doesn’t like reading. 💙Holes is a classic book I think everyone should read. It is such a fun adventure story of a boy who goes to a camp for delinquents after being accused of a crime he didn’t commit. At camp, Stanley meets wonderful friends but they are under watch by a horrible warden who makes them dig holes all day. 💙Love this one! . . . . #holes #louissachar #holesbook #tridentmediagroup #bookish #bookaddict #booknerd #bookworm #instabooks #instareads #instabooks #bookclub #mglit #readingtime #favoritebook #bookgoals #favoritebooks #bookishlove #mustlovebooks #middlegradebooks #readinggoals #funbooks #bookobsessed #booksbooksbooks #bookgeek #bookhoarder #yearling #lovetoread #themagicofbookstagram

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It has taken us much longer than usual to get through a book of this length, because we have to keep stopping and talking about all of these various events, and how they should take them, or how to think about them.

It has made this book more challenging than I expected.

And even knowing that the books contains the above events/topics, I wouldn’t say that people shouldn’t read it to younger kids. I think it is important to provide deep and dense reading material to kids. I often complain about how empty headed a lot of the newer children’s literature is.

But I’m not sure my five year old was ready for what was essentially a lynch mob/killing. I will say though that I gave my kids a short lesson on MLK Day about the reason for the day and what it was that Dr. King was trying to do. We talked about racism and segregation and how people were treated as the result of the color of their skin, and the fact that Dr. King was killed. It wasn’t too difficult to remind the kids of our discussion about Dr. King and how things were back then (and are today).

Whenever I read more mature books to my kids, I tend to edit language and events when I think it is necessary (swearing, inappropriate, too adult, etc). I had to do a lot of editing during the section where the two characters kissed and were later punished for it.

I also think that a lot of the sarcasm from the boys and the bullying went right over the heads of my ever-so-young and naive boys, and that I didn’t always read the sections to them with the sarcasm as it should have been delivered to them.

I guess what I am saying is that I wasn’t quite prepared for the sarcasm, the sadism, and the lynching (it was a brief paragraph).

But if I am being honest with myself, it isn’t the content that really makes me regret starting the book.

As far as the writing goes, this probably isn’t the best book to read out loud to children. Not that the writing is bad, but because there is a lot of talking in this book between the characters, a lot of digging in holes, and not a lot of action. My older son has stayed with me and found it interesting so far, but my younger son’s attention has drifted a lot and he complained a bit of boredom.

In contrast, I loved reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll to the kids. Even though the language was older and complex, there was so much action, so much stuff constantly happening, and so many characters. The kids were riveted throughout the whole novel, even though it was something that had been written more than 150 years ago.

It takes so long time to read a whole novel aloud to kids. So there has to be something happening in the book to capture their imaginations and interest. This is why I think we did so well with the Wings of Fire series (by Tui T. Sutherland, little bloody at times for my taste but exciting), and with the Hobbit (full of adventure but not as big of a commitment as the Lord of the Rings books.

All in all, I’m feeling pretty meh about this experience. I think I was hoping for something a little more exciting. I will say that the book is meatier than fluffy stuff available out there for kids this age (the Stink books, My Weird School, Diary of a Wimpy Kid).

But I doubt I would recommend it to another parent looking for something good yet fun to read aloud to their kids (in the age range of 5-8).