I love watching children pull out the books from the library shelves but hate it when I hear a parent tell them to put a book back because it’s too young for them or is “rubbish”. Reading is not like eating food, so letting children choose their own books is not like letting them eat fish fingers every day. Reading “bad” books won’t spoil their appetite – it’ll make them want to read more and try out new authors and a child who’s allowed to read whatever they fancy is much more likely to grow up into a book lover.
Growing up in a small village, I don’t think I was taken to a library as a child, although we were given lots of books. But I remember the first time I discovered Heffers Children’s Bookshop in Cambridge – I was about ten and had just started going into town on my own. It was like book heaven and for the first time I could choose and buy them on my own, with no adult present. I still have some of the books I bought there: the Doctor Dolittle cost 21/- of my birthday money (and was very special), the I Spy Car Numbers was 1/- and the others cost 3/6 or 4/- (that’s £1.10, 5p, 17.5p and 20p in new money). How will e-books ever conjure up such memories?