At work, my desk is closest to children's nonfiction. You'd be surprised how many times I've heard, "Put that back. It's too hard for you." Regarding fictional books, I can more easily understand the comment. Perhaps the book's subject matter is better suited to teens, or the child is a struggling reader and needs something easier. There is a certain amount of reason for parental discretion in choosing fiction. However, amidst the aisles of juvenile nonfiction, I'm hard pressed to think of a reason to limit access; and when practicable, I will sometimes step in and tell a story about my daughter and a book - a book much too hard for her to read.
When my eldest daughter was four years old, we took one of our many trips to the public library. On this particular day, there was a box of discards on a table with a sign that said "Free." My daughter could read a bit, and she certainly knew the meaning of "free," so she began looking eagerly through the box of tired, outdated books. She promptly pulled out The Children's Space Atlas (1992, Millbook Press), an oversized book, 95-pages, weighing 2 lbs., with a suggested age of 7 and up. Obviously, an odd choice for a 4-year-old. but I thought, "Why not? It's free and she likes it."
At home, she pored over the pages, though the text was too hard to read. Over the years, she kept at it. As a Brownie Girl Scout, while her giggling girlfriends were debating which boy was cutest, my daughter would interrupt with important questions like "Did you know that Jupiter has a storm that's bigger than the Earth?" (Her friends were polite, but unimpressed.) As she grew older, we watched the night sky for Orion and learned the names of stars. We went to the beach and watched meteor showers, once staying out all night with blankets and hot cocoa. We visited the local planetarium; and with the Girl Scouts, spent a night at the Franklin Institute and viewed the stars through their massive telescope with 10" refractor. In the autumn evenings, we often watched the moon rise from the ocean, red and huge. And still, she could never get enough of the stars.
She graduated number one in her high school. Her favorite class was Physics. Here's a picture of her favorite book (which she still owns).
I'd show you her picture as well, but she's not here. She's at college, in an honors program, on the Dean’s List, studying Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Physics - all because of this old library book.
Never think that books cannot inspire us to greatness or that women cannot be the equal of men.
They can. They can.
Please, join us for each of the next 30 days as we offer up a celebration of children's literature featuring women throughout history. We have a stellar lineup of writers and illustrators. Let their vision and stories invigorate, educate, and motivate, as KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month, 2013.