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The Impact of a Book

Photo courtesy of Jorge Mendez Blake’s website.

I let out a long, slow breath the first time pictures of Jorge Mendez Blake’s work The Castle appeared in my Facebook feed. I don’t pretend to connect or understand art easily. But this? This I understood. Maybe it’s because without even zooming in on the title of the book (The Castle by Franz Kafka), I was already picturing how this wall represented the reading lives of our children.

See more photos of this work here.

The Castle (the book) was only published after Kafka died. Kafka’s ideas had a large effect on many people, but during his lifetime, his unpublished work likely felt rather unimportant.

Isn’t this the case with so many of the books our children choose to read? For some adults, (and sometimes this includes teachers, librarians, and school administrators), watching children choose books that they may deem as less literary or educational in value, may seem of little consequence. But the importance of letting children select their own reading material is well documented. We wrote all about the importance of letting children choose their own reading material here. (It went viral on Twitter, which we’re pretty excited about!)

You never know which books are shifting the bricks inside them.

One of the first things I noticed with this art installation was the light now filtering through the wall. To me, it represents all that potential energy a book can add to your life. Too often we get caught up in the logistics of book reading: page numbers, minutes read, lexile level (how difficult the text is), chapter length, illustrations, developmentally appropriate topics, etc. But authors don’t aspire to write a book because they know just the right level of text difficulty that is sure to hook a reader or that a 46-page book is the ideal length to impact your world view.

Change your language so that a child looks at a book as potential energy, not drudgery.

What topics excite them? What characters will face down their fears? What perspective could a character bring that you’ve never considered before? Will it add to your understanding of a favorite or new topic? In a world that could use a great deal more empathy, allow the book to be an introduction to another world. Books are a source of light, of potential. Try to make the way you speak about books and reading reflect this at home.

Now picture that wall WITHOUT the book. It’s straight. It’s boring. It’s dull. It’s uniform. It looks the way a wall is supposed to look. But are the most extraordinary people we meet, the thinkers, creators, leaders, the problem solvers, ever described this way? Not usually.

We need people to consume books and stories because they change us.

They allow us to learn, see the world through new lenses, and develop understanding of how we view ourselves in the context of the world. With the addition of just this one book, the wall changes. I think the real gift of this piece are the questions that linger after you study it.

  • What type of wall do you wish for your child to build?
  • How can you help others build walls that are unique?
  • Does what’s inside the book matter in how the wall is formed?
  • How would the wall change if books were added at different layers?
  • How do you navigate life when your wall looks different from those around you?
  • How can you respect the walls of those around you?

What books impacted the wall of your life?

Maybe it was a book you read as a child, or in your teen years when you were questioning everything, or even a book that impacted how you are now raising your children. What books/poetry/magazines/blog posts have you noticed affecting your children? We’d love to hear about those: leave us a comment or share on our social media pages (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram).

We’ll soon be sharing some helpful resources for book recommendations for you and your child. Websites you can browse together, or people in your own neighborhood who you can seek out for advice. Perhaps these recommended titles will be the books that impact your child’s wall of life!

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