This week, my hometown newspaper published a list of 100 books to enjoy during social distancing, which reminded me of many similar lists that have been published recently for parents, for new graduates, and for kids. The Children’s and Teen Choice Book Awards lists of books preferred by kids are among my favorites. (I featured them in my May 21, 2020, blog.)
I think all of these book lists serve as a perfect resource during this period of social distancing, which offers time for much self-selected reading for everyone, especially children. Social distance time offers more-than-normal alone time which ideally includes reading books that are chosen and not assigned. If kids don’t choose to read during their free time, that’s distressful to those of us who love to read. We might wonder why it is that even when surrounded with abundant time that children choose not to spend any of it enjoying the latest book recommendation from a friend or from thoughtfully curated lists?
I don’t mean to suggest that reading is the only fulfilling activity that kids should do when they’re by themselves. Kids should spend time exploring and enjoying many things—from crafts to model making to tinkering with electronics to bicycle riding to…the list goes on and on.
Whatever kids’ options for spending free time alone, the calm and relaxation of being totally focused on an activity of their own choice for extended periods of aloneness are definitely not lonely. Nobody chooses to be lonely; we just choose to be alone, giving ourselves the gift of time to do whatever we like, with no interruptions from others, something in which we can totally lose ourselves. And books offer readers the perfect place to get lost, to take a little vacation, to step away from pandemics, to temporarily suspend the uncomfortable reflections about the rending of our social fabric and the challenges of stitching it anew to create a more just and egalitarian crazy quilt where EVERYONE might feel warm and cozy.
The experience a child has with a book is very individual, even if that child is reading the same book as their peers. Sure, there are points of plot or information that will engender conversation, but there also are issues and ideas that will bubble up for each reader that are uniquely their own. Even with an entire class discussing and wondering about the text, there are mental events that will happen to each youngster that won’t occur to their schoolmates. Even when a storybook or non-fiction text has been provided by a list or by friends, the uniquely personal possibilities for introspection, reflection and conversation by kids in isolation are nearly limitless.
Now may be the perfect time to gently assist in building children’s foundations for lifelong reading, so I encourage you to recommend a book to a young person in your life. Then talk with that child and invite them to share their experience with the book. At its very root, literacy development is as simple as that.