I had a conversation with someone once. It went, “How about books as prizes for children?”
And the response was, “I don’t give books because they might not like it. I give book tokens so they can choose.”
Which makes sense, because what’s the point of giving a book that won’t be enjoyed? And why not include the pleasure of going out and choosing a book?
But also makes no sense because, by the same token (pardon the pun), there’s also the risk that a book token won’t be spent.
Thing is, both ideas are lovely. I like the idea of giving a book as a personal prize, where it can be inscribed as a memento of achievement. Maybe the child will enjoy the book, maybe not – but a gift is a gift; it doesn’t have to be perfect immediately – some gifts are for growing into, or worst case, they can always give it to someone else.
- adventure stories (“for boys” — don’t get me started) — Tom Brown’s School Days, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Great Escape, etc,
- animal stories,
- animal nonfiction,
- fiction classics and fairytales — Brothers Grimm, Black Beauty, Anne of Green Gables, The Water Babies, Blyton, etc,
- the dictionary (for the rude words),
- Calvin and Hobbes,
- Rupert the Bear pop-up books from the 1940s for the slightly archaic tone,
- Ancient wildlife books,
- quirky books like The Grammatical Kittens,
- Mills and Boon (30 books, one plot),
- The Joy of Sex (to laugh at the beardy man (oh come ON, you didn’t do this?)),
- DIY manuals,
- and weird old recipe books that included suet and lard.
Very little of what I liked would have been given to me by the adults I knew at that time, and some of it might have been forbidden, but as a child, I had an open mind, and once I gave a text my attention, I usually found something to like in it. The difference between a new text and what I’d read before often felt like an adventure, and rarely felt like a chore.
This may or may not be the same for everyone, but there’s only one way to find out whether a book will be read and enjoyed, or not: let the children see the books.