One of Life’s Great Joys

Visiting the library with young children is one of life’s great joys, because nothing compares to the experience of picking a book up, holding it, looking at it, seeing the colors, smelling it, and, if you’re really small, chewing the edge of it. One of the glories of books is how many of your senses you use to experience them, including smell and the delight of discovering books by serendipity. You simply don’t have that with ebooks. I have hundreds of titles on my Kindle, but I am very unlikely to go browsing on my Kindle for something to read. That’s the magic of libraries, that possibility of discovering something you didn’t even know you were looking for.

— Neil Gaiman, quoted in This Is What a Librarian Looks Like, by Kyle Cassidy, p. 15

Beneficent Circle

Pleasure is the spur that motivates beginning readers to spend the thousands and thousands of hours reading that it takes to become a proficient reader. Readers who become proficient are those who enjoy reading and who do it by choice as a voluntary activity in their leisure time. Children who dislike reading and avoid it whenever possible never get the hours of practice that it takes to become a good reader. With each year, the proficiency gap grows between children who enjoy reading and do it voluntarily and those who dislike and avoid reading.

— Catherine Sheldrick Ross, Lynne (E. F.) McKechnie, and Paulette M. Rothbauer, Reading Matters, p. 45

Becoming Readers

Here is why I have hope for children who have fallen behind and why I call them developing readers instead of struggling ones: these students have the ability to become strong readers. They may lag behind their peers on the reading-development continuum, but they are still on the same path. What they need is support for where they are in their development and the chance to feel success as readers instead of experiencing reading failure. They also need to read and read. Time and time again, I have seen a heavy dose of independent reading, paired with explicit instruction in reading strategies, transform nonreaders into readers.

— Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer, p. 25

Our Job

Librarians must be on the forefront with community and early childhood agencies to make reading and literacy an essential and pleasing experience embedded within each family’s daily lifestyle by providing guidance, encouragement, enthusiasm, and inspiration — in other words, by taking on the role of a coach in regular family reading initiatives.

— Rita Soltan, Solving the Reading Riddle, p. 68

Talking About Books

Early in my career as an educational consultant I believed that the key to turning children into readers was simply to put the right book in the right hands at the right time and, bingo, children would love the stories they read. I quickly realized that something was missing. I soon recognized children also needed to talk about the books they read. Showing children they have something to say about the books they read helps them engage and connect with a story — children who talk about stories understand the stories better. This is an essential component of children becoming confident readers, and children need confidence to be good readers. Every child needs and deserves the advantage of being a good reader.

— Diane W. Frankenstein, Reading Together, p. 3

They’re All Readers.

I need to put forward more encouraging terms for my students than the negative popular terminology struggling and reluctant. Where is the hope in thses terms? I prefer to use positive language to identify the readers in my classes. Peeking into my classroom, I see sixty different readers with individual reading preferences and abilities, but I consistently recognize three trends: developing readers, dormant readers, and underground readers.

— Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer, p. 24


Teaching in elementary school, and watching kids in action, I came to appreciate how effortlessly kids learn when they play. Babies learn to talk without taking multiple-choice talking tests. Toddlers learn to toddle without writing toddling essays. How do they do it? By playing around.

So from teaching I learned to respect kids as natural learners, supply them with the tools to learn, and then get out of the way. I learned to inspire instead of lecture. I learned to trust play. That philosophy is at the heart of everything I write for kids. I want my readers to laugh, of course. But then I want them to question, to argue, to wonder — What if? I want them to play. I want them to learn for themselves.

— Jon Scieszka, “What’s So Funny, Mr. Scieszka?,” A Family of Readers, edited by Roger Sutton and Martha V. Parravano, p. 169

Why Children’s Literature?

That can be annoying for the people who packed the box. They want children to learn to read, for example, and of course they are right. The most important thing you learn at school is how to read. It’s important because we live in a literate society and in our society it’s as important to be able to read as it is to be able to walk and talk — if you can’t do these things, your ability to participate in society is restricted. But literature is bounding along ahead like the white rabbit, and before you know where you are, it’s over the hills and far away. Because children’s literature knows perfectly well that literacy is only a beginning, not an end. It’s the starting point, not the goal.

Literature soars way up into the air like a kite and makes us gasp. It’s held in place by a string wound around a spool, and the spool is maybe in the box. We have to have the spool of string, but the spool isn’t the interesting thing. It’s the kite that’s beautiful and buoyant and alive and that tugs for freedom.

— Siobhan Parkinson, “Flying Kites and Chasing White Rabbits: Children’s Literature in Functional Times,” The Horn Book Magazine, September/October 2011, p. 53

The Awesome Gift

We struggle over a theology of imagination. We find it hard to believe that imagination is God’s idea and that it is among the chief glories of human beings. Of all creation, human beings are the only creatures who have the ability to transcend the smallness of self and imagine something different than what they know. God is imaginative; we are made in his image.

Children are wonderfully imaginative; they are born that way. Bread crusts on highchair trays become trucks; dolls cry and need to be rocked. Imagination is to be encouraged, trained, developed, enjoyed. That is why we surround children with picture books that tell stories, and why we read to them about adventures in far places. Dr. Seuss lets them put their tongues and their imaginations around words that make up stories. Yet even before the advent of the book, people were drawing images in the sand and making up legends. Imagination is not only a human capacity; it is an awesome gift.

— Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Woman’s Heart, p. 33