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How Do You Best Empower Young Readers with Choice?

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

Do you publish children’s books? So, do you spend enough time with actual children? “One of thing things I recommend people do is talk to kids, talk to your readers…and you’ll find out what it is that is important to them,” said Kristin McLean of Bookigee, as part of the TOC Bologna conference on Sunday morning.

“My favorite thing to do is when I’m hanging out with kids as part of research for my books is I ask them to empty out their backpack,” said children’s book author Stuart Murphy. “When they do that, you can really see what is important to them.”

Why would you do this? Doesn’t it seem invasive?

“Seeing what’s important to a child, how they learn, will change how we interact with children,” said Dominique Raccah, publisher of Sourcebooks, in the same presentation.

The simple fact is that power-base of the children’s book economy is quickly shifting away from “gatekeepers” — parents and grandparents — to an “on demand” economy, in which children require more and more choice from those who make reading and interactive materials accessible to them.

Of course, as any parent knows, offering a child too many choices can result in stress for the child. So in this context it is important to remember that proper parental curation remains key.

So how much choice in books should you give a child? How do you empower them properly? Well, the first step is learning more about what it is they want and finding away to curate for those demands in a way that is also aligned with your ideas, expectations and desires for the child.

Agree, disagree. Let us know what you think in the comments.

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  1. Posted March 25, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I don’t know that backpack contents reveals much more than if someone summed me up by the contents of my purse. The key always is communication and caring. Care about what’s important to the child; offer, offer, offer lots of good choices and then help the child make up his or her OWN mind.
    The role of trusted adviser seems just about right to me. http://thevoraciousreaderblog.wordpress.com/2012/01/

  2. Posted March 25, 2013 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    What’s important to a child the ability to make choices for themselves. Guidance is good, when welcome, but self-directed selection is best. Remember the excitement of wandering through those Scholastic book catalogs in grade school? So many choices, so little budget. The enthusiasm of receiving a batch of new books was exceeded by picking them out in the first place.

    Of course, there is always a good argument to be made for talking with your child. Discussing reading choices. Reading their book suggestions. Encourage them to stretch beyond their comfort zone, with new genre, new authors, etc. The goal is to build a reading relationship that will last a lifetime.

  3. Posted November 14, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

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