No offense to all the friends and family who gifted us a mountain of cool baby gear, but it was shocking how few books we received. I always thought of books as a classic present – with all the trappings of a great gift: timeless, personal, re-giftable, the gift that keeps on giving, etc. etc. And mostly unique! When the books did start to roll in over the various holidays, I began to worry about the health of the children’s book landscape. We received five gifts of ‘Goodnight Moon’ and re-gifted the last three copies of ‘Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site‘. ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?‘ I see you in the home of everybody.
Not that I have ever worried about diversity of book options – there are endless fabulous books for kids out there! But I worry about the monoculture of ‘bestsellers’ saturating the few remaining outlets we have for book buying. Leaving the literate starving for variety. I have often witnessed parents scramble to write down the name of a book recommended by another parent with a focus and speed typically not displayed by the sleep deprived. And recently I found myself in the same position where the sight of a few books I have never seen before sent a rush of adrenaline through my spine to quickly devour them. It was as if I’d been fed only hamburgers for weeks and was just seeing my first grilled chicken salad. I needed to own them, and read them to my children tonight!
Of course, those who frequent their local library may not feel the pinch that the rest of us feel (though if people stop buying books, publishers will stop printing books, and libraries will go the way of bookstores). But for the rest of us, with the bookstore desert that is sweeping our landscape, where do we turn but to each other?
I am launching a call to parents – go to your bookshelves. Find the most tattered, chewed upon, food sticky, well-loved book that your child demands be read over and over again. And post just the title and author on whatever social media outlet you prefer: Facebook, Twitter, spam your email contacts list, text your favorites, call a few friends on your landline, or have a face to face interaction with another human being. Let’s spread the good word.
‘The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water‘ by Gemma Merino