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13 June 2016 @ 02:45 pm
Cultivating readers  
A recent post I read concluded with this paragraph: "In short, cultivating a young reader requires two, only superficially contradictory, strategies: We need to engage with our children deeply on their own terms, with loving, respectful conversation about things that genuinely interest them. And we need to get out of children’s way so that they can discover on their own the enchantment that fuels not only a love of reading, but also a love of life." You can read the entire post here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/beyond-the-summer-book-list-how-to-cultivate-a-childhood-reading-habitat/2016/06/08/39fef580-241d-11e6-9e7f-57890b612299_story.html?postshare=9611465684888566&tid=ss_tw.

The title is a tad misleading, IMHO, though, as it does not get to the third, and most essential ingredient: BOOKS. Let me repeat, access to books is essential. If we are to extend the analogy of cultivating, then books might just be the earth in which we plant the seed. Access to books might be the fertilizer and the plant food.

My BH and I were careful gardeners when it came to cultivating the residents of the back bedroom as readers. Their room had built in bookcases from floor to ceiling in the closet. They were given money to buy books from book clubs and book fairs. We went to the library (and I still recall Nurse Girl's dismay, actually more of a tantrum, when she was told she was not old enough for her own library card). We went to bookstores routinely, always leaving with more books than we planned to purchase. And, of course, there were the special books. Those were the books perched on the top shelves of the bookcase. They were books that did not het loaned out; books that were read and then promptly reshelved carefully.

Those were, of course, the books which contained autographs and dedications to the residents of the back bedroom. Whenever I returned from a conference, the residents would gather around the suitcase waiting for the books to emerge. It was my tradition to bring at least one book specifically for each resident. I also brought back ARCs and other books. The residents would clutch their prizes and disappear to burrow into the books. Our home became a lending library for some of their friends.

That access to books and our willingness to share books with them (my BH can still recite THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR and THE RAIN BABIES among others) sustained the former residents as they proceeded through high school and college. They kept coming back to books for pleasure when they had time. They are still readers now.

So, as we are planning for summertime, we need to be sure that the ground for lifelong readers is made richer, more fertile, more likely to produce life: make sure books are everywhere readers might be. Here is a checklist:

1. Books in the bathroom?
2. Books in the car?
3. Books in the bedroom?
4. Books stacked within reach of the bed, the recliner, the couch?
5. Books arrayed in front of the TV and computers?

I know I am preaching to the choir, but it never hurt ti reiterate what we know to be true: access to books is key.
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