*blows six inches of dust off blog* Hi there! Guess what? I’m not dead. I’m just resting. Pining for the fjords. Generally busy, I guess. But I have not forgotten my blog!
Today I wrote a thing. However, because it is 2019 and I’m not a Luddite, I wrote it as a Twitter thread. It was downright thrilling, my first Twitter thread, let me tell you. Upon request (hi, Li! *waves*), I am now reposting it here. So let’s talk books and kids, shall we?
So okay. Yes, I’m an author, but I also have a day job in retail as a vendor where I travel to a lot of different stores. While I’m working, I overhear a lot of shoppers’ conversations. One type is particularly heartbreaking to me.
At one warehouse store I visit twice a week, my section is near a big table of books. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve overheard a frazzled (or outright livid) mother say to a young child hovering by the book table, “OMG, I am not buying you another book!”
Not buying another book? Why not?
Okay, I’m biased, I know. And I’m aware there are a lot of different circumstances that could prompt that response. Money could certainly be an issue—I get that. But I also see the jumbo packs of shit in your cart, Karen.
I mean, put down the 5 gallon tub of Crunch ‘n’ Munch and pick up the book your child is clutching to her chest. This is a young person who is literally begging for something to read. Do you know how rare that is?
And here you have a magical being who wants to read and you’re saying no. From your angry response, you’re teaching your child that reading is not only unimportant, but something that’s at the bottom of the list of necessities in life, an irritant.
You’re affecting that child’s perception of reading for the rest of his life. You are telling her that the 5 gallon tub of Crunch ‘n’ Munch is more important than his imagination, her education, his joy. But I get it—maybe something happened before this moment. Maybe you bought your child a book and he didn’t finish it. That’s okay, though. Happens all the time. We start books and realize they’re not well done or just not for us. But your child had the opportunity to try it out, which is the important thing.
Maybe you really don’t have the money. Totally understand. But maybe, instead of being angry that your child is clutching a book to his chest and pleading for it instead of following you to the 5 gallon Crunch ‘n’ Munch aisle, you can react a little differently. Perhaps you could say something along the lines of, “Well, we can’t get that right now, but what’s the title? I’ll bet the library has that book and a bunch of other ones besides. We’ll go there (today, tomorrow, on the weekend) and see, okay?”
All parents want the best for their children, and reading should be a part of that. I was a ridiculous bookworm when I was a kid. There were no books in my house; my parents weren’t readers, and they didn’t “get” why I was. My mom controlled the budget, and books weren’t in it. But my parents took me to the library almost every time I begged them to. (Almost. I begged a lot.) I plowed through the juvenile section of my small local library branch and then read those books again, and again, and again.
Because we had no money, I never asked them to buy me books. Except for those precious Scholastic order forms and book fairs—that’s another inexpensive way to get your child books. But then I was in a store with my dad after my parents divorced, and I expressed an interest in a particular book. It was, like, $2. (I’m old. Adjust for inflation.)
And he said something I never, ever forgot: “If I can manage it, I will always, always buy you any book you want.” I still didn’t ask very often, but I knew he recognized that while he had no use for books, I absolutely did. And it shaped my entire life.
So buy your kid the damn book, Karen. They’re not asking for video games or junk, after all. And please don’t shame them when they ask for one. If you can’t afford it, take your child to the library. Just don’t say no to reading. It’ll shape their entire lives too.