It’s inescapable. There is nothing quite like the moment a child opens a book for the first time. They discover with eyes and mind a magic that is fresh and new. If they’re lucky, they make the discovery at home, with a book gifted to them. And it should be a real book, specially produced for children. I’m inclined to say that it should also be something more than just any book. I still remember some of the books I encountered as a child, and believe me when I say that that was a very long time ago. I won’t list titles. They’re not important to this discussion. It’s the sensations that they gave rise to.
A book, with a hard cover, a brightly illustrated jacket protecting a surprisingly plain cover. The jacket entices, hints at wonders to be discovered within. The plain cover, in time, will give rise to a sense of immensity, with its blocked typeface so stylishly perfect on front and spine, with maybe a box around the title on the front and lines dividing the printing on the spine. And opening the book, there’s an aroma that will become so important. The scent of paper and ink, but much more than just those – the distinctive smell that says “book”. Within, the text is clear and crisp, with some pages adorned with line drawings, maybe even some colour plates illustrating parts of the contents. Some books may even have text on pages alive with colourful images, almost like subtitles.
Plunging into the words, the child is immersed in a magical ocean. It may be a fairy tale or an adventure story, tales of lands of wonder and mystery, stories of ancient times, or more mundane things that any child can relate to. It really doesn’t matter. For now, the child loves to enter the enchanted world of books.
The author clearly bears a great responsibility. These young minds are wide open, thirsty for knowledge. It is the author’s duty to not bring harm to those minds, not to repel the child. The author must entertain, first and foremost. Any other purpose must be subtle, an almost subliminal message. But, the author isn’t the only person who bears a grave responsibility here. Parents and teachers must shoulder the burden too. They must be prepared to provide the books, and to accept that the child may not like some of them. The worst thing adults do to children is forcing them to read books they dislike! That single act can stop a child from ever becoming a reader. It’s a kind of deprival that is inexcusable.
There are far too many children in this world who have no access to books, by the circumstance of where they live or the poverty they exist in. It is unforgivable for us to deprive our children of the magic world of books and reading. Even if you aren’t a reader, I beg you to give your children every chance of becoming one.