Why Kids Read

Why do kids read? They read because they are made to, of course, but they also read — via media in a multitude of forms — because they want to find something out, or they want to join their imagination with somebody else’s. I will say it again: They read for the same reasons adults do.

— Roger Sutton, A Family of Readers, p. xviii

Reading Great Books With Our Children

When we read great books with our children, we teach them to turn to great books throughout their lives for comfort, humor, and for illumination of the human experience. The most influential leaders and thinkers in the world have consistently relied on literature for inspiration at their most difficult moments. Nelson Mandela turned to Steinbeck during his imprisonment and says it changed his life. Lincoln was criticized for reading novels in the middle of the Civil War; he defended himself by saying that it kept him sane.

Whether we are called upon to govern a nation or organize a birthday party for too many children, the key to both surviving our days and cultivating our next generation of leaders is many books, well chosen.

— Kyle Zimmer, Everything I Learned to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book, edited by Anita Silvey, p. 207

Empowered Readers

I am convinced more than ever that once the great global climactic catastrophe has destroyed the earth, when the stragglers dig themselves out from their damp bomb-shelter hovels and go hard-core low-tech, readers of young adult fiction will make up the core of the new society . . . because we are the only ones who will find living off the land fun.

— Lizzie Skurnick, Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading, p. 218

The Minds of Children

One reason nearly half my books are for children is the glorious fact that the minds of children are still open to the living word; in the child, nightside and sunside are not yet separated; fantasy contains truths which cannot be stated in terms of proof….  The most grownup of us is not very grownup at all… the most mature of us is pretty immature… we still have a vast amount to learn.

— Madeleine L’Engle, The Irrational Season, quoted in Glimpses of Grace, compiled by Carole F. Chase

The Power of Children’s Books

What is it about a good children’s book that has such a seismic effect on so many lives?  What is the special magic of children’s books that we remember all our lives and that is more intense than even the most profound reading experience as an adult?  I think it is that those early books are the first that transport us out of the egocentric life of the child, conjuring worlds of experience and events about which we had never dreamed.  Although that magic transcends the self-centeredness of the child, it also allows that self to roam and become part of the story and the magic.

— Michael Gorman, Our Own Selves:  More Meditations for Librarians, p. 19

A Noble Profession

With the firestorm and controversy out of which The Higher Power of Lucky emerged unscathed, I am more than ever confirmed in my belief that librarianship is a noble profession, essential to free speech and free access for children.  It is crucial to children’s ability to make sense of this fragile, battered world — the world we’re handing over to them.  I’m grateful to have spent thirty-five years promoting children’s books.  It’s work you can look back on and know you made a difference in people’s lives, and as cliched as that sounds, I believe it profoundly.

— Susan Patron, Newbery Medal Acceptance Speech, June 24, 2007.

Good Books; Good Questions

All books leave readers with questions; a good book leaves us with good questions.  Asking ourselves if Dumbledore ever found love (or what might have happened if Stanley Yelnats had not found the sneakers, or whether Harriet M. Welsch ever found culinary pleasures beyond tomato sandwiches) is how we give a book life within our imaginations, make it our own.  Like Philip Pullman’s subtle knife, those questions open the fabric between the writer’s universe and our own.

Pullman has been facing some questions of his own….  Pullman’s His Dark Materials presents a magnificent panoply of inquiries — about God, “Dust,” and the human imagination.  Is the trilogy a challenge to the Church?  Absolutely.  But mostly it is a challenge to any readers or pundits who expect a book — or its author — to do their thinking for them….  It’s not a writer’s privilege or responsibility to tell you how to read her or his book.  Talk is cheap, but print, still, is more or less forever.

— Roger Sutton, Editorial, The Horn Book Magazine, January/February 2008

The Reading Conspiracy

From Reading Magic, by Mem Fox:

“Engaging in this kind of conspiracy with children is perhaps the greatest benefit of reading aloud to them.  As we share the words and pictures, the ideas and viewpoints, the rhythms and rhymes, the pain and comfort, and the hopes and fears and big issues of life that we encounter together in the pages of a book, we connect through minds and hearts with our children and bond closely in a secret society associated with the books we have shared.  The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading.  It isn’t achieved by the book alone, nor by the child alone, nor by the adult who’s reading aloud–it’s the relationship winding between all three, bringing them together in easy harmony.”

(page 10)