Library Corner: Let the children read |

Library Corner: Let the children read

Tess Riley
Grand County Library District

“When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” – Nora Ephron

If you’re a fan of romantic comedies, you may recognize that line from “You’ve Got Mail” in the scene where Meg Ryan is rhapsodizing about the importance of books in the lives of children. Whenever I watch that movie, I’m struck by the truth of those words.

Some of my fondest childhood memories were made in my hometown library. Every Saturday, I would mount my yellow Schwinn and pedal three blocks into another universe. I spent hours in the stacks deciding which eight books would come home with me. I would start by choosing one or two old favorites (I must have read “A Wrinkle in Time” more than 50 times). Then, I’d choose a few novels that were new to me. Finally, I would round out my selections with some non-fiction books — insects, plants, and crafts were favorites. It’s no exaggeration to say that those books transported me into a different world. Having lived through the lives of countless characters in the pages of books, I honestly believe that I am a different person.

As an adult, I recognize that one of the most valuable aspects of my Saturday library ritual was that I got to choose my books independently. Although my parents sometimes accompanied me to the library, they never hovered over my shoulder, giving advice on what I should read or vetoing my choices. I was permitted to follow my interests. Granted, maybe “Double Date” didn’t win any book awards, but it was a story that allowed me to imagine what it would be like to be a cool teenager, important ideas to an 11-year-old girl. And along the way, I also stumbled upon some really great classics, like “Little Women,” “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” and “Summer of the Swans.” Each and every one of these books changed me for the better (yes, even “Double Date”!).

If my parents had tried to direct my reading, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to read at all. With so much assigned reading in school, I prized the freedom that came from being able to make my own choices about what to read when I was at home.

Neil Gaiman once said: “Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading. Stop them reading what they enjoy or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like…you’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and, worse, unpleasant.”

So, parents, I implore you, if your children want to read “Captain Underpants” or superhero comic books, let them. If your children want to read the “Babysitter Club” or “Dork Diaries” series, let them. Trust me, these titles won’t stunt their intelligence. Instead, these books will embed a love of reading. Any reading, all reading, is time well spent. Give your child the freedom and independence to select books he or she truly want to read. You will create a reader for life.

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