I’m reading Libraries Designed for Kids by Nolan Lushington (Neal-Schuman, 2008). It’s mostly practical and interesting, but it repeats the same ridiculous opinion several times. I hear library directors (not my own, fortunately!) repeating it too. Here’s how it goes:
1) Children choose books by their covers
2) You can’t see picture books enough to see the covers on regular shelving
3) Therefore, your picture book collection should go in bins
And here’s what’s wrong with that:
Three-year-olds are not supposed to be the ones choosing the books! Children will randomly grab any old book for any old reason. And sometimes that is fun and interesting and you end up with a book you might not have selected, and that’s great. But most of the book selection needs to be done by a parent or other person who can, you know….read. Parents and caregivers should be keeping track of which authors they enjoy reading, and noticing which subjects their kid particularly loves (one kid it’s trains–another, it’s dogs). They should be reading a page or two and noticing if the language flows for them, or if the book might be a good bedtime story or a funny middle-of-the-day break. They may want to pay attention if the content will make them want to throw the book across the room while they’re reading to their child–The Giving Tree, anyone?
It is condescension disguised as respect. They’re pretending to respect the child’s need to choose their own books, but the underlying reason is that they don’t think it makes any difference which book they choose. That bright, pretty cover is all that matters, right? They’re just kids, and just kids’ books, right?
Besides the fact that it makes it impossible or at least intolerable to find specific books when they are in bins, the whole thing is absurd. Are they envisioning the three-year-olds standing patiently in front of the bins, flipping through the covers to select the one that’s just right? So silly…