Sunday, August 1, 2010

Books That Change Childrens' Lives

This post on books and children struck a chord with me and I am sure any parent reading it will also be interested. A recent blog survey by Susan Orleans on books that have changed children’s worlds reveals that many times the books are possibly the parents’ choices. This could be because until the child can go out and choose and pay for their own books, the parent is usually the book buyer, and therefore is by default the book chooser.

Parents may purchase enchanting classics because they want their children to enjoy the books they grew up with. It could also be that some books may be considered inappropriate by the parent. Perhaps the subject matter is too shocking in some cases. For example, when I first read Lord of the Flies (now a classic) at a very tender age, I was shattered. Violence and death among children seemed impossible. Nowadays, the number of instances of child on child violence is rising. Or is it? Possibly with wider media coverage and the age of the Internet, more cases are being reported because the dissemination of information has become so much easier.

When I taught my adopted daughter Mabel to read I naturally turned to my old favorites. I was very pleased to see many of them on Susan Orleans’ list. Many of those books changed my world. Mabel loved lots of them but naturally began to spread her literary wings as she grew up. First it was The Golden Compass, then Inkheart, and then Twilight. It’s time for another trip to the bookstore soon. Twilight has kept her busy for a very long time because each movie release means another read of the whole series to check what the movie makers are leaving out.

Your child may not enjoy the beloved books of yesteryear that were your friends and companions. Times change, technology marches ever onward, and children’s tastes develop. Any parent wishing to foster and develop a love of reading in their child should be aware of the new and often difficult pressures on children today. Issues that did not exist thirty years ago may be of compelling importance now. Subjects that were never spoken of such as child abuse, incest, violence, drug use, death, a dystopian world, global warming, war, racism, nuclear threats, etc unfortunately rear their ugly heads in today’s society. Children are also bombarded with media messages that create confusion. Should kids be growing up too soon parents wonder? Should they be reading this or that?

Some practical tips for parents wishing to expand their children’s book list and foster a love of reading in their child:
  • Sign up for online newsletters from children’s publishers to keep up with latest releases.
  • Subscribe to children’s book review sites such as 5 Minutes For Books to keep abreast of kids’ books. Often reviews are helpful in deciding whether to purchase a book or not.
  • Look at what your child is reading at school and discuss whether they are enjoying it, and if not, why not.
  • Plan a shopping trip to a good bookstore and look at the books most prominently displayed. Chat to the store assistants. Get their opinion on what is popular, what works, and what they would recommend. Find out if any authors will be doing book readings or if there are any book launches coming up.
  • Local librarians are a fount of often unappreciated knowledge. Ask about book readings or library sessions where there is a fun activity planned.
  • Buy books that target your child’s interests and hobbies.
  • Encourage your child to make their own choices.
  • Fill your home with books on a variety of topics. Recent studies show that having a few as twenty books in the home boosts your child's chances of going on to higher study.
  • Let your child see you reading, and how much you enjoy it.
  • Children love to share activities with parents. Reading aloud to kids is something all parents should do for as long as possible.
For more articles on the benefits of books for children, or for educational aspects visit my author site (see media page).

Don’t be afraid that any one book will change your child’s viewpoint in a negative way. Life is full of all sorts of experiences that they must eventually experience. Books are a way for kids to dip into another world or explore topics safely.


Ruth Cox aka abitosunshine said...

Excellent parenting advice on instilling reading in children.

Blessings & a bit o' sunshine!

Redpeffer said...

Great to meet you, some brilliant ideas here too.

Renee C. said...

Interesting what you said about The Lord of the Flies. I was given that book to read by the Grade 8 teacher in our school when I was in Grade 5. It was rather shocking! The irony is that he gave me that book to read because he found out I was reading Stephen King novels! lol That is simply a hazzard of being the youngest of 4 children, I'm afraid. My husband and I often discuss how we want to maintain our kids' innocence for as long as possible. It's alot to swallow when you think of the tragedies such as the killings at the Sandy Hook school or the summer camp in Norway. I don't want my children to live in fear. They can't calculate the odds the way we do for example. Great article Fiona - thanks for sharing it in the Kid Lit Blog Hop! :)