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).
5 thoughts on “Is there such a thing as a bad book?”
I totally agree with you! There are some of my kids’ books I dream about quietly throwing away in the night! Those ones based on TV shows – why does the writting have to be so bad and so long? I think you’re right though I just want my kids to love reading and if they love to read and read a lot hopefully good taste will come eventually! The book series that really got me into reading as a kid was Bunnicula, aseries about a vampire bunny rabbit who sucked the juice out of vegetables. Not really great literature by any standard, but those books helped me realize hey reading is awesome! And they made me thirsty for more. So I hope that’s what happens to my kids too.
Yes that’s exactly what I’m hoping too. I would read anything when I was younger and the habit has stuck with me. I was also thinking that as with anything, the more I try to make her to like something, the less likely she is to enjoy it!
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Truth is, as a child I was hugely into Famous Five, Magic Faraway Tree and treasuries… It’s funny how I didn’t read many of the children’s classics until I grew up! x
I think lots of us have fond memories of books that aren’t regarded as classics. I was also a huge Famous Five fan as well as The babysitter’s club, Nancy Drew and all those girly books. I think if you enjoy reading then you’ll learn to take risks and try new things and then that’s when you find out what you really enjoy. And I agree, it’s so much fun reading children’s books as an adult.
When at the library, I’ll let my son choose half of the books we are borrowing for the day. His choices are quite random and the interest may not be the same once we are reading at home. Some days he’ll pick up gems that I would overlook because I don’t care for the illustrations (Wait! I Want to Tell You a Story by Tom Willans) Other times he will pick something up with great illustrations, but a mediocre story. Reading is reading, no matter the content, right? Keep up the great work!