The correct number of delightful books that children encounter on their paths to lifelong learning isn’t a number at all. It’s a steady stream, an unfailing flow, of impactful and personally pleasing books to read. The best flow rate of new book choices should be determined by each individual child. Some kids will latch onto a favorite book and not want to turn loose of it for weeks on end, maybe requesting that it gets read several times a day. Other kids may approach book discovery like a day at the amusement park. More! Newer! What’s next? Wowza!
Ensuring that an optimal supply of books gets delivered to children is a matter of parents and teachers paying attention to each child. Kids might not tell us directly about what they enjoy, but they’ll always leave us clues as to which books might get them hooked. We just need to watch and listen for them and be cognizant of timing.
Flow is the key. The target is to develop and nurture the expectation that the next new, delightful, scary, surprising, funny or touching book is out there. Children who become used to looking ahead to the next book are taught to become lifelong readers and forever learners.
When should the flow begin?
Early! Many parents of new babies get gifts of books for their newborns. Being that relative or friend that puts the first book on a child’s as-yet-empty bookshelf is a great demonstration for young parents about what’s important. Gifting a book or membership in a baby book club provides a fabulous initiation to new moms’ and dads’ roles as lifelong, loving educators.
Children who grow up enjoying regular trips to the library, to new or used bookstores, or to yard sales with bins of good reads for sale, will grow up anticipating and even craving the shot of adrenaline related to the vicarious experiences they have with people and events around the world through the pages of books. And each book read brings along the social opportunities of sharing and discussing their latest finds with their family and friends.
Regardless of their age, it’s never too early or too late to start developing children’s love of books and getting them acclimated to having books everywhere. Early on, plastic, cloth and board books offer babies items to touch, feel, hear, see and and even taste. As children grow, hardbacks, paperbacks, digital books, newspapers, magazines and more will feed the lifelong flow of words that must begin no later than today and proceed into their adulthoods. And yes, parents, grandparents, siblings and friends can enjoy them, too.