For many years, today was my Back-to-School Day. I always thought it was a stroke of genius to start school the Wednesday before Labor Day. Coming off of summer vacation, we had a three day week, then (because of Labor Day) a four day week, and it was only the third week of school that we had to go into the old grind of five whole days a week, seven hours a day. (No, I do NOT wish I were back in that grinding schedule. At least in my current work week I don’t have to climb a rope to the gym ceiling.)
I’ve seen a goodly number of articles, of course, on getting your kids ready for school. What they should wear (not always courtesy of a local clothing store), what they should put in their desks (not always courtesy of a local department store), and what they should be taking for lunch (almost always courtesy of your local grocery store OR a health watchdog group.) I have been suspicious of these lists and charts ever since I had that donation from a schoolteacher’s file cabinets and got a generation’s worth of Food Pyramid Charts, those charts which told you what you had to eat to insure maximum health. I was looking for copyright dates and, in the fine print, found that the chart with milk and cheese as the biggest block in the pyramid was provided by a dairy, the one which featured bread by a wheatgrowers’ association, the one that featured protein by a meat producers’ concern, and so on.
HOWEVER, I did recently find a chart which was provided for us by a speaker at the Newberry twenty or so years ago. He wanted to tell us exactly what every good parent had to have at home for schoolchildren to read. I don’t recall what he did for a living, and can’t tell how HE may have slanted the data. But his recommendations seemed good to me, so I will reprint his chart here.
AGES 1-5: A lot of different books
AGES 6 TO 11: A lot of different books
AGES 12-18: A lot of different books.
His point was that you don’t know what your bundles of bounce want to read. Your offspring don’t really know what they want to read. Oh, they may know what they want RIGHT NOW, and they may ignore some of the books because they have dumb pictures or too many words or the wrong color cover. But that could change overnight. He thought having a whole bunch of books around at all times meant there would always be a choice: an old favorite or something new. And of course this supply would also need to be replenished regularly.
He did NOT speak about discarding books before the house was completely filled. (My own solution would be to fill the house, pitch a tent in the backyard, and stage regular safaris into the house for more to read by lantern light.) This will have to be between parent and child. You will need to come up with your own answer to “No, don’t give that to Uncle Blogsy. I haven’t read it yet” and “No, don’t give that to uncle Blogsy. I might read it again”. Some parents I know use the Bookcase Method. “This is your bookcase. When it’s full, you need to give away some books before you can have new ones.” I know spouses who try this on their significant others, too. I assume this is why I get so many books which smell as if they’ve been hidden in the basement under the bags of kitty litter.
His point (and mine) was that the only sensible way for a child to grow up with books is to provide lots of books. Maybe the child in question will pick just one and read it seven hundred times. But without the variety of books to choose from, would he have ever found that copy of “Batman and the Cheetah Caper”? YES, I KNOW there are experts who suggest you just get your descendants electronic readers, so they won’t learn to clutter their lives with books at every turn. It’s up to you to decide whether you’d rather have their lives full of books or obsolete electronic devices. (Books can’t lose their chargers, either.)