BookTrust’s Great Book Guide: What impact does genre have on your child’s reading choices?

Books can’t be simply labelled or placed into one category. But if you’re only interested in reading about dungeons and dragons or you’re desperate to learn how to knit, genres can save an awful lot of time.

When it comes to your children reading a book, do you think these genres could be standing in the way of them discovering an author or series they love?

Before I met my husband, I only ever read fiction. Stories of love, loss and relationships filled my bookshelves, and I wasn’t prepared to ‘waste my time on anything else’. James accepted this and was very patient with me as I rejected all his non-fiction offerings. Until he recommended Educated by Tara Westover. It’s a fascinating memoir about her survivalist Mormon family, truly a remarkable read. I devoured it in days. Towards the end I was rationing it because I didn’t want it to end, you know the type? And now I primarily read non-fiction with the occasional fiction book during holidays.

The point I’m trying to make here (in a slightly arduous way) is that books shouldn’t be pigeon-holed. Every book has been written with intent, purpose: to entertain. Children’s books, especially, are built to captivate and tantalise (these are now the only fiction books I read). So, how can you get your child to switch from graphic novels to poetry or Gangster Granny to Lemony Snicket? More to the point, how can we diversify your child’s reading?

The problem with genres and bookstores

Did you know that 80% of children’s books are published by only 8 companies? Those companies play a large role in deciding the commercial success of these books. As a result, the books stocked in large bookstores are those that have big names and characters because inevitably they’ll sell quicker. Moreover, these bookstores are handily (or intentionally depending on which way you look at it) organised by genres.

So, little Freddy who loves dinosaurs, can go to the dinosaur section. But, if all non-fiction books were just placed alphabetically by author for example, Freddy could stumble upon a book about volcanoes, space, the ocean etc. Therefore, broadening his horizons, opening up his world and filling his mind with possibilities which is ultimately what we hope for when children read, isn’t it?

The Great Book Guide does not do this. It recommends books because each and every one will give your child a wonderful and enriching experience whilst reading. Brilliantly, the books have been organised by age, meaning browsing for your child is super easy and there’s not a single genre in sight.

Each book is provided with a snapshot overview and the only uttering of anything remotely resembling genre is in the description of its content, not as a label. Perfect.

All books are made equal

I’m not encouraging you to discard genres entirely, just think about how these categories could be impacting your children’s choices and perhaps inhibiting their reading journey.

When you next visit a library or bookstore, pick out a selection of multiple books and offer them to your child. Think of it like a menu in a restaurant, in order to make a fully informed decision, we need to know what else is available. This way your child won’t be influenced by a category that’s ‘too old for them’, ‘too young for them’, ‘girly’ etc.

Even better, take a look at the Great Books Guide with your child. The books featured have been carefully selected and truly are superb choices.

“Stories are our main way of making sense of ourselves and the world. That’s why they are so important.” – Dan Hade

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