The furore over new book releases continues. We are reading at a pace, though devoted to ensuring we know, love and recommend any book included on our shop shelves.
Last week, saw much excitement about the release of Philip Pullman’s ‘The Book of Dust Volume One La Belle Sauvage‘. Like many of you, I read and loved the ‘His Dark Materials‘ trilogy. Mr Bookwagon and I discussed whether to rush read so that the new title might be included within the shop, but decided against it when we saw it offered for half its retail price in a supermarket and a major book chain – Philip Pullman Writers Can’t Make a Living From Books. Our revelation coincided with a tweet from an established and beloved children’s author whose publisher had offered him a deal of 3p a copy per title sold, to be shared with his illustrator. What are we to do as a literate society? Well maybe, ladies and gentlemen, we need to read more good books, widely, variously and vigorously.
To that end, we’ve put ‘La Belle Sauvage‘ aside and returned to recommending titles about which you may be less familiar, titles that shine, that must not be missed, including earlier works by Mr Pullman, like Clockwork, or All Wound Up, the title the author said he would most like to be remembered by.
Today I finished reading, Kick by Mitch Johnson. Although I’m inclined to leave seemingly ‘boys’ books for Mr Bookwagon, this isn’t a ‘boy’s’ book but a story of humanity/inhumanity within 21st century society. I took so much from it, I’m relieved it wasn’t one to be snaffled by Mr BW. I re-read a favourite read aloud this week, Hoot, ideal for Junior age/Middle grade readers who relish a gritty, funny, pacy story.
The most common enquiry we take from parents and teachers is ‘How do I get my child/children to read?’ I can, like the aforementioned Philip Pullman discuss some of the problems with 21st century teaching, learning and reading – from an exhaustive assessment system, to the demise of school and local libraries. However, I would include an additional suggestion for your consideration.
In addition to families needing to instil a regular bedtime reading routine, despite the stresses and pressures, children need to see their parents reading.
We had the good fortune to meet Gecko Press publisher, Julia Marshall this week. We discussed children’s literature, how to hook children into reading, what constitutes a good book. We talked about social media pressures on children, how the accepted wisdom is that children are always on their devices so they don’t read. Julia commented on something that I’ve observed, and about which I agree, that ‘it’s not the children, but the parents.’ She continued, ‘When do children ever see their parents read? Those adults who do read, read at bedtime, after their children have gone to bed.’ Also, when do children hear their parents discuss their reading? If they are reading after hours, it suggests those discussions are conducted when their children are asleep.
I extend this consideration to suggest that in many homes books are relegated to bedrooms, away from the living area. It used to be that bookcases were a feature in a home. Many families have a ‘one in, one out’ action as regards a book, so that any new book bought for the household must replace another so as to not take up too much room. So, if parents are children’s best models in terms of behaviour, what are they seeing and learning? If parents read books that are seemingly disposable that children never see, how can they realise the pleasure, mystery and information held between the pages? Children see their parents and adult carers using their devices – phones, tablets, laptops – constantly; these are part of their daily functioning. However, reading a book? A newspaper? Talking about their reading?
I love talking about books. It’s not only the bookseller in me, it’s a constant curiosity. I love it when Mr Bookwagon shares his reading, e.g., ‘The Unwinding: Thirty Years of American Decline’ by George Packer, formed much of our discussion during last year’s Florida road trip. We read differently and variously; he is more inclined toward history, economics and biography than me. We learn from each other and delight in our individual reading practices
Recently a friend attended Hillary Rodham Clinton’s London Literary Festival talk at the Southbank. She chose to take her 9- year old daughter. My friend, is energised by current events; she is a curious, informed thinker and reader. Subsequently, she and her daughter have chosen to read Hillary Clinton’s ‘What Happened‘ together; it has been reviewed as a trailblazing and honest account of Clinton’s 2016 US presidential campaign and subsequent global events. My friend’s 9-year old daughter concluded in a communication to her grandmother from sharing this reading experience with her mother:- ‘What do I want to do? I want to stand up for myself and all women that want to become something special. Every woman should be able to achieve their dreams and be treated as equally as men!’
Keeping books demonstrates that they are valued too. I will often look back over books that I have loved. Recently, Mr Bookwagon and I caught Robert Redford’s film version of Kent Haruf’s ‘Our Souls at Night’. We sought the title on our shelf to compare the plot. Frequently, I will look over my poetry books; our growing poetry collection in Bookwagon is a source of pride and determination for me. 2017 has introduced me to the works of Joseph Coelho, fresh and vigorous, as in Overheard in a Tower Block.
Mr Bookwagon and I have ‘discussions’ about how best to store our sophisticated picture books. I will frequently pull one of the titles out and look it over anew, most recently, Zeraffa Giraffa which I’d omitted from the Bookwagon shelf, accidentally, despite having my own much loved copy. Realising it has been adapted for a Christmas stage prompted me to amend my omission. I took Kate DiCamillo’s La La La to have signed, at the Bath Children’s Literature Festival, delightedly. In the post is a copy of Mrs Noah’s Pockets for lovely, encouraging friends who admire the works of James Mayhew. I’m planning on gifting the wonderful Once Upon a Northern Night to an ethereal friend with a broken wrist, and missing bathroom fitter.
So, dear Bookwagon readers, when you remember and are able, please read that your children can see you. Talk about your reading. Let them know that you are a reader too, that you derive information and the sort of pleasure in your reading experience that you hope they will.
If you want a few suggestions, we’re only a phone call or email away!