Babies like what they like and while possibly being curious about new things, unless some immediate value is detected, they will pretty much ignore our offerings with a casual wave of the hand. They have no qualms about sharing their disapproval with us. Tough sale!
So, how do we get our wee ones to like what WE like because in our wisdom we know it will be totally enjoyable and even good for them? Books and reading for instance?
It’s a sales job, sort of like selling clothing or cars. If children buy into the notion that ongoing book consumption of a never-ending stream of delightful genres is a source of constant fun, they most probably will become lifelong shoppers and joyfully try on new things as they grow into adulthood and beyond. But timing is everything and we must know the best time to deliver our pitch, and deliver it with enthusiasm and charm.
Early on, children’s tastes and needs change regularly, so we must keep our inventory fresh and present it well. I recommend every child has his very own, tidy bookshelf. Even if the shelf is just a dedicated corner on the floor, it will leave the impression of specialness of the books in their wardrobes.
Like all good sales clerks, we mustn’t come on too strong, but establish ourselves as credible, trusted resources to help Tinies discover what they do not yet love, to try it on for fit and give it a chance to be a good choice. We can do this by engaging with them when reading together: “THAT was a good one! I liked the part where the bunny was confused as to what to do next!”
…and we need to guide them to explore, reject, embrace and decide for themselves what they like and dislike.
“Would you like to try this one? Ooo! Look at that little girl. What do you think she is up to? OH! You like that blue book? Sure! Let’s take a look at that one.”
We must believe in the quality of our products and convey that faith to our tiny customers. They may find an old “look,” something that has been picked over many times and in your view now belongs on the sales rack, but they may want to try it on again…and again…and again. “Good choice!” we can murmur as we help them rediscover how well it fits their growing sense of personal style. Perennial favorite books (well, daily, anyway) for little ones (whose age is still reported in months) might best be treated like classic styles, never out of fashion.
We must be able to communicate each new book’s value proposition, clearly and consistently, while showing them how we inspect books to determine how each one has promise for them.
If we do all this, one day our sales jobs will pay off. We’ll know we succeed when our little ones appear in the doorway, toddling toward us with one or more books wrapped up in chubby arms, headed for the fitting room (your lap!). They will have chosen each book for its promise as a perfect match for their personal tastes. At that point, we sellers of literacy can give ourselves a pat on the back for a job well worth doing that was also well done. The joy young children take in seeking out and selecting books for reading will be our biggest bonus.