Whilst browsing Instagram this morning I saw a beautifully illustrated quote on Chris Riddell’s feed which said “I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad book for children.” He was quoting Neil Gaiman. It really set me thinking. Is it really snobbery and foolishness that makes us believe some books are better for our children than others or is there a good reason why we carefully select some books for our children and push others away?
I don’t mind admitting, I definitely value some books in our collection over others. At bedtime, my little girl is free to choose her two stories (one from me and one from Daddy, if he’s home in time from work) and occasionally I have been delighted with her choices but I could count on two hands the number of times she has picked out two books that I think are both amazing, beautiful examples of children’s literature. If you follow me on Instagram you will know this because I get pretty excited about it and share it triumphantly on my feed!
However, more often than not, I would happily swap out one of those books because it’s not one I love. It might be something affliated with a TV program or big movie franchise. It might be a story from one of those treasury type books that have too many words, or not enough words, or just doesn’t seem to have anything new or exciting to say. Sometimes these books don’t even have a named author or illustrator as though they have just appeared from nowhere.
The question is- does any of that even matter? Yes, I would love everything she reads (and as an extension of that, everything young people read as a whole) to have a lovely moral message, beautiful illustrations, interesting vocabulary and a gripping storyline because I know that this is good for her development. But above everything else, I just want her to love reading as much as I do and get pleasure from experiencing new things through books and as much as it pains me to admit it, she’s as likely to get that from one of her favourites as she is from one of mine. It’s the time we spend together, making reading an enjoyable experience that is important.
So I’m going to read the good, the bad and the ugly. I’m going to plaster a smile on my face and pretend I love it as much as she does. I’m ready to embrace anything she throws at me as she wades her way through the many books we read together to find what she really loves. I’ll even let her choose her own library books.
Well, most of them…
(Some of our favourites from L-R: Mr Big by Ed Vere, Blown Away by Rob Biddulph, The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes, Oi Frog by Kes Gray and Jim Field, This book just ate my dog by Richard Byrne).