Lynn Hazen is hosting the February Carnival of Children's Literature. In suggesting potential topics, Lynn asked: "What do you love about getting good books into the hands of children and youth?" To me, Lynn's question is surprisingly difficult to answer. You might as well ask me: "What do you love about breathing?" or "What do you love about eating food every day?" Answer: "I consider these things essential. What more needs to be said?"
OK, perhaps there's a bit more to be said. I think that once they have basic food and shelter, good books are THE most important thing that we can give to children. Here are a few reasons why:
- Good books can be teachers, conveying knowledge on an endless variety of topics.
- Good books can be spaceships, opening portals into countless other worlds.
- Good books can be time machines, transporting kids to other time periods, past and future.
- Good books can be kaleidoscopes, helping kids to see things from other perspectives.
- Good books can be mirrors, helping kids to see themselves, and their motivations, more clearly.
Without books, it would be much more difficult to pass along stories from generation to generation (we could do this orally, but the stories would change with each retelling). Without books, it would be much more difficult to store and share knowledge, and for kids to dive into particular topics on their own. And without ways to pass along our stories and our knowledge to future generations, what would we be?
And, of course, access to good books plays a huge part in motivating kids to spend time reading. When they spend time reading, they become better at reading. Their vocabularies improve, along with their understanding and self-confidence. They are more likely to go to college, and less likely to ever go to jail. They have positive outcomes in the short-term, and continue to reap the rewards of reading across a lifetime.
So, I'd have to say that what I love most about getting good books into the hands of children and youth is the potential to change their lives for the better. I mean, really. What a tremendous gift, to know that by helping kids to gain access to wonderful books, we can help improve their lives forever. Getting to read the books ourselves, too, well, that's an added bonus.
(This post was partially inspired by a recent post at The Book Chook, in which author Susan Stephenson says that reading offers both empowerment and escape. If my words on the importance of books resonated with you at all, do check out Susan's thoughts, too.)
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.