I liked this post on Offspring about how to parent like a librarian, which means surrounding your home with a wide range of things that may spark your child’s curiosity, but letting them explore their natural curiosity at their own pace. The simplicity of this idea resonated with me because we’ve been taking a similar unschooling approach with Charlie and Olive.
Because we have great used bookstores here, over the past three years I bought any book that I thought my kids might read one day. Every Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, and Beverly Cleary. Caldecott and Newbery Medal winners. Classic series like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Books I loved from my childhood like Where the Red Fern Grows and The Secret Garden. Atlases and encyclopedias. Comic books like The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes. The Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley’s Believe it or Not.
At first many of these books sat on the shelves as Charlie just read and reread his favorite books over and over again. But as he gets older and his interests broaden, he has been working his way through many of the books I’ve collected, at his own pace. He has lots of questions, but I don’t always answer them (because I often don’t know the answer!), and I try to ask him what he thinks. I might tell the kids how much I loved a particular book when I was a kid, but I never push them to read anything specific because their intrinsic curiosity is the biggest motivator. It doesn’t matter what they’re reading to me, as long as they’re reading.
While I can’t pass up a classic, most of the books I buy are guided by their interests. Olive reads every Rainbow Magic book and Charlie reads every Horrible Histories/Science/Geography and Murderous Math book we can get our hands on right now. I also buy books on my own interests like animal rescue and mountain climbing, as well as nostalgic books like the Childcraft series. It’ll be great to share something I love with them, but I think fostering that natural curiosity is what’s most important right now.