My five year old niece is a non-fiction reader, plain and simple. She likes the odd picture book, but she’ll tell you straight out that she’d rather have books about animals or science or the world instead of a simple story. Not really the thing of quiet bedtime stories, but it doesn’t seem to bother her to read about the life cycle of bugs right before bed, and in fact, she wants to hear about it. And many children are the same…..they just prefer non-fiction to sugary stories. We have several families that come to the library and the kids will take home armfuls of books about history, the human body, animals or anything else that they are interested in that week. And thankfully, they have parents who are supportive of their reading habits, but many aren’t.
How often do we hear parents come into the library with their reluctant-reader children and direct them to books they read when they were young, assuming that will get the kids into reading? First of all, many times, the books we read when we were kids are no longer interesting to the children of today. Our picture books were mainly sweet stories with beautiful illustrations…..fairy tales and books with a moral. These days, children want colorful pictures, fun illustrations and silly characters who make them laugh. They’ll often pass by the classics such a Where the Wild Things Are and go for The Diary of Fly and I know it bothers some parents. They don’t understand that their kids have been exposed to bright colors and cartoons since birth and the soft bunnies of our youthful books are boring to most.
Last week when a woman came in and complained that her daughter wasn’t reading, I explained that I thought she probably just didn’t have the right books to read. I tried to persuade her to take home several different types of books, such as graphic novels, YA fiction, Juvenile fiction and non-fiction, but she promised to bring her daughter back in to choose her own books. Recently, the woman came back in all excited that she’d thought about what I said and decided that she should stop thinking about what her daughter “should” read and focused on what she thought her daughter might like to read, and it made all the difference. She’d bought a Children’s Almanac which was filled with short paragraphs, vibrant pictures and fun facts, and her daughter LOVED it! It may not make her a lifetime reader, but finding something she enjoyed might allow her to visit the library once in a while to find something she’d like to take home.
We should almost give little tours to parents and children to show them all of the different ideas they might choose from when first coming to the library. It’s like shopping….you don’t do all your shopping in one aisle and you wouldn’t like it if no one told you there were more options, so why should kids be any different? I’d go so far as to say that it’s censorship in some respect, and no one likes to think they are censoring books.
It’s just something to keep in mind if you have a reluctant reader at home. Maybe they just haven’t found the right “aisle” yet!