The most important contribution of books to the lives of children is in how they hold up a mirror to them that reflects back a world of possibilities.
Biographical and nonfiction books can resemble the realities of kids’ lived experiences, and then go on to tell how individuals very much like them have overcome obstacles to achieve great things. Fictional stories can illustrate events and individuals that are close to those kids actually know and love, and add colorful new possibilities that could be true for them.
Nonfiction and fiction narratives can expand and elaborate upon what children find familiar. They invite kids to dream big and beyond the reach of their actual lives. Each book genre enriches children’s daily lives and nurture the development of their imagined worlds and possible future selves.
A trip to the neighborhood, school or online library, or to a local bookstore will be improved by encouraging fully expanded notions of which books are appropriate choices for children–and by empowering children to select their own books. The impacts of common storybooks and favorite sets of series books are not to be denied, of course. Yet books from across the entire spectrum found in libraries–history, science, biography, poetry, science fiction, fantasy, drama, mystery, fables, legends, nursery rhymes, adventures, supernatural, psychology, explorations and all the rest–should absolutely be considered for their potentials to nurture children’s imaginations and dreams.
Varied books provide a rich and growing set of vicarious experiences through hitching rides on the expertise of authors from around the world. Diverse books keep the humdrum and mundane have-tos of everyday life from elbowing out the truly grand, glorious and fertile growth possibilities that are so much larger than what often is offered to children at home or in the standard curricula of K-12 education.
After taking relaxed time to self-select books and/or other reading material, kids should be provided time for relaxed reading of and browsing through their “What’s this?!” and “Oooo! Cool!” choices. Casual, unhurried time with books offers powerful experiences and magnifies the intellectual enhancements that come from a fully literate life. Such exploration and discovery are an irreplaceable contribution to children learning to become true readers who develop an enduring hunger for more and better books that can shape and complete their educations throughout their lives.