It’s fair to say that in the UK, we tend to romanticise childhood.
If ‘childhood’ had an Instagram account, we’d see posts of siblings snuggled up with adventure stories and ice cream binges next to towering sandcastles at the seaside. Just like social media profiles, we heavily curate the idea of childhood even though we know that this is not the whole, truthful picture.
The reality is that for many children life can be gritty.The disruption and stress caused by divorce, poverty, illness and war affects children just as it does much adults. So why do we continue to encapsulate the idea of childhood as something free from the pressures of everyday life? Our rose-tinted glasses repeatedly entwine the concept of ‘youth’ with concept of ‘freedom’, and it’s been this way forever… William Blake anyone?
The problematic part of romanticising childhood in this way, is that time and time again our presumptions, shape our beliefs about how children act, what they enjoy and how they learn, often ignoring the nuances of individual circumstance. One reoccurring collective belief is that children, all children, LOVE stories. ‘make-believe’ ,‘imagined worlds’ and ‘adventure’ complement our preconceived ideas about the essence of childhood. But the simple fact is that fiction, is not universally accessible to all young people. There is an entire spectrum of reasons as to why some kids don’t get on with fiction; from a genuine disinterest in storytelling, to more complex neuro-divergent or educational needs.
At Rocket Ahead we chose to focus on ‘reading for the future’, rather than echo the overwhelming focus on the fiction-led ‘reading for pleasure’. We want to show the children currently left behind, that they are more than welcome on the prosperous Big Ship o’ Books and we welcome them aboard with their very own non-fiction treasure. Here’s why
Non-fiction has rich bounty. There is something for everyone–– every conceivable topic of interest, at every level but most importantly, it allows children to engage with the written word in a multitude of ways.
It’s for the episodic reader that carefully digests three facts a session. It’s for the diagram fiend, engrossed by the visual intricacies of text and image combined. It’s for the child who doesn’t see themselves reflected in the stories currently trending in middle-grade bestsellers.
Non-fiction is a truly inclusive format.
Of course, this is not to say we diminish the value of reading fiction. We celebrate the immense and transformative potential of a captivating narrative and understand that it’s a huge part of the reading eco-system. We do believe, however, that if we continue to push fiction upon children who don’t experience it as such, we risk alienating them.
We already know the phenomenal advantages of having access to books in childhood. By introducing children’s non-fiction to homes, we’ll empower all young people who falsely believe that reading is ‘not for them’ and gift them access to a bright start in life.