In the last week, at many different times, and in varied contexts, the Bookworm team has been reflecting and discussing ‘what makes a good book’. What is it that make a book “better” than other books? What makes a book “more likely to be picked” and ” a “good book to read aloud”.
What is this criteria that each of us has in our head that guides us when we are selecting a book to do? How do we know that this is something that the kids will relate to and accept? Are we thus saying that we “know” the childrens’ lives and worlds, based on which we make book choices? Are we doing the kids a great disservice in this “assumption” that we know what they will respond to?
All these left unanswered, the work goes on. We pick books, we do sessions, and we later reflect the reactions of the kids to these books; in hope that we get a deeper understanding of what works and does not.
This is what we’ve been wondering.
Then there’s the other end of the continuum where the kids pick books. It is, to me, always fascinating to see this process underway. Over the last month, I’ve watched it happening at Mae dos Pobres, Auxilium Primary school in Caranzalem and Aldona and Kasturba Matoshri High School. I admit that I have not figured out what the selection criteria is.
Is it the text content? The illustrations? Is it the colour? The size of the book? The feel of the book? The shape? The characters? Whether it’s been previously seen on T.V?
‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover’, they say. But I’ve seen kids run their hand over the cover of a book and sigh with satisfaction as they hand over their book to be checked out.
I’ve seen kids flick through the pages of a book ‘til the end. Then flick through it again. Flick through it a third time. Then return it to the box, and repeat the process a couple of times until they find the right one.
‘Mhaka zai! Teacher, she took my book!’ Two kids fight. The book in between, and 2 sets of hands struggling furiously against each other to get a hold over the book.
I’ve seen disappointment when a book they were eyeing from afar got picked before they could get to it.
…it’s even nicer when they go over to the person who got the book and pore over it together.
They rummage through the boxes over and over, until they pick the book they want.
I’ve seen them together turning page by page of their book, and then swapping stories.
Sometimes, they scrutinize books, page by page, before they decide they want to delve further into the book.
I still do not know what a book ‘good’. I do know that whatever it is to each of us, there is something intrinsic and instinctive about it. I know the happiness that finding a good book, I see it every week.
And therein lies the magic.