Reading Ender’s Game with My Daughter

My daughter (10) has outgrown me reading to her. Man, one of those dreaded transition times has hit. I get that same sad/happy feeling all parents experience in those moments as the child disappears and the young adult begins to emerge. She also asked recently to stop going up to the front of the church for children’s message. I tried not to show it, but ouch.

We finished Watership Down at the beginning of summer, and I had started reading The White Dragon to her by Anne McCaffrey – a favorite of mine from around eighth grade. But it was a slog. Busy schedules, mine with work travel and hers with being a typical ten-year-old meant that we had a hard time finding the time and there were big breaks between readings. Finally, about half way through, I asked her if she was over this whole “Dad reads to me” thing. She’s a sweet one, so she tried to break it to me gently, not looking me in the eye, she said, “Well…” I wanted to save her from her awkwardness so I told her it was fine, that whatever she chose was not going to hurt my feelings. The answer was she was done.

But she’s a book nut, like me, and I wanted us to keep that connection fresh.

So, I’m currently conducting a little experiment that I’m enjoying and so is she. We’re reading the same book together, and I’m preparing discussion questions on the latest couple of chapters we read, and we are discussing them in the evenings. I’m also listing a few vocabulary words because I don’t expect her to know the word “fastidious” at this age and because I want her to remember me fondly always.

The book I chose is Ender’s Game, a favorite of mine from around the same time I read The White Dragon. Fun fact, I was once in a play with Orson Scott Card‘s daughter when I was acting in LA. He came to a performance and I geeked out.

Like I said, she and I are enjoying this little experiment so far, and she’s had some thoughtful answers to share. One of her most interesting answers involved bullying. I asked her what she thought about how Graff and the other adults in the novel allow Ender to be bullied to the point that he gets in situations where it is either kill or be killed, and how our current school system is vastly different. I followed that up by asking if our current school system, with its zero tolerance policy to bullying with adults constantly intervening in situations, would ever produce a child like Ender. She said she didn’t think so, but that that wasn’t necessarily bad. She told me, “Sometimes you should get the teacher, but mostly you should try and work it out yourself.” I asked her if we would ever need someone like Ender, someone ruthless who was able to do whatever needed to be done to save himself and the people he protects. She wasn’t sure, but her wheels were spinning.

Here are a few more of the sample questions. 

What does Valentine mean in Ender’s life? Why is her name significant? Why does one of the prologues say she is “the weak link” and “can undo it all from the start?

In one of the prologues the speaker says that Ender can have friends, but not parents. What does he mean?

What are the differences in how Ender handles conflict with Stilson, Bernard and Bonzo? What is he learning in these cases?

Who are the real enemies? What does Dink think? What do the commanders think? What does Ender ultimately believe?

Why do so many leaders dislike Ender as he advances in the school?

Tell me the funniest moment for you so far in the book.

Who is your favorite character besides Ender and why?

We’ll be finishing the book tomorrow, so soon I’ll have to pick another!

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