The term conjures up images of fairy tales and mythical creatures and villains and heroines of all kinds. It reminds me of spending time with the characters in beloved series books for youngsters, like Encyclopedia Brown, Junie B. Jones, Ramona, Emelia Bedelia, Frog and Toad, The Magic School Bus, Magic Tree House and the Hardy Boys, and then of fabulous characters like Sarah Sylvia Cynthia Stout and Horton, The Watsons on their way to Birmingham and Bud not Buddy. What a banquet of creativity I have enjoyed!
Fictional accounts of life, love, adventure and woe all offer their authors a blank slate upon which to weave their story lines and flesh out their magnificent characters. Storybooks tend to be culturally rich with meanings that, in many cases, are incomprehensible to those from other communities. However, to their target audiences, they carry forward the depth of the civilizations to which they speak.
Of course, some children have interests in less fictional things, but which spark as much imagination as fictional stories. They enjoy nonfiction books about influential people and indigenous civilizations and the fullness of nature in every place on earth and far out into the galaxy.
Nonfiction books tend to be culture-free, dealing with what is demonstrably so. These STEAM* books have universal potential for building background knowledge and expanding horizons in the real world.
So, which should it be for children? Storybooks or nonfiction?
Well, both I hope.
And adults should lead children into new worlds and ways of thinking using all types of publications. It’s up to those they trust to inspire them to sample from the unlimited adventures they encounter in a lifetime of reading from every sort of book, magazine, Internet site and news source.
So, we should seek to start children on all of their explorations to know and to grow early…from birth forward. Certainly, children will have their favorites. I’m a mystery reader and gleefully dive into any kind of crime fiction. But I’m also a devotee of scholarly works and informed opinion, and a struggling musician, rough-in carpenter and home electrician. Each of these interests takes me joyfully in many directions and my only regret is captured in the truth that there are, “So many books, yet so little time!”
It’s never too early to start reading and talking with little ones about what they encounter in books…and never too late.
There’s no reason not to start right now to encourage their growth in every possible way.