The Importance of Choice

This is my first blog post for, Making Spirits Bright, the amazing Detroit based literacy non-profit! And I was given the privilege of choosing what I would like to write about. This gift actually gave me the idea for my first post!

Choice! More specifically how giving autonomy to a child, within their reading journey, can change not only their immediate reader experience, but have an affect on their life-long relationship with books.

We all know the wonderful gift of giving children books. That moment, when a child who doesn’t have open access to books, has a book placed in their hands. It’s an incredibly important and often emotional moment but, wait a minute! … Did you know that you can elevate this moment to the next level? It’s that 6 letter word again, CHOICE!

Let’s take it back one moment and reflect upon some of the brilliant ways that books are put into children’s hands. Well, there are book projects throughout schools, there are library events that are open to local communities, and there are specific book charities that facilitate book drives within low socio and economic areas. Amazing!! But, Making Spirits Bright have been doing a bit of research, in fact a LOT of research into how to foster a LOVE of reading in children. 

As adults, I see it as our responsibility to help children find their ‘joy of reading’. The fact that I am sat here writing so passionately to you, that you are reading my post with interest, and that organizations like Making Spirits Bright function, is because somewhere in our childhood, we found our ‘reading spark’. What a privilege to behold and if we really dig deep, we can probably pinpoint that special adult who took the time to encourage this.

Making Spirits Bright discovered that if a child is able to choose their own book, they are more likely to finish it. In fact, Scholastic’s ‘Kids & Family Reading Report’ states that “across demographics, when a child chooses their own book to read, 89% say it became one of their favorites, 88% say they will most likely finish it and 82% say that they feel a sense of accomplishment”.

These statements come from children and in an industry where adults are very much the gatekeepers, think … children’s writers, children’s publishers, booksellers, librarians etc ALL adults, this is so important!

So it’s about time that we gave a voice to the audience who children’s books are actually intended for! ‘Voice your Choice’ is a catchy slogan that should be explored by the book industry.

One such ‘industry professional’ is championing just that! Maria Dismondy, founder of Making Spirits Bright and children’s publisher, Cardinal Rule Press, believes that choice shouldn’t be a luxury but a certainty, “We provide children and families with access to quality, inclusive and diverse books.” The key word in this statement is ‘access’, because ultimately, if we don’t open up the gates to give children access to as many books as possible, how will they have choice?

For the access to be made possible, there firstly needs to be a larger, more diverse, selection of books available. Did you know that to date, Making Spirits Bright have donated 30, 000 children’s books within the US! What is just as important is making sure that these books are relevant, diverse, and of good quality, because this initiative isn’t just to tick a box of giving. Making Spirits Bright wants children to feel listened to, empowered and believed in. And as us adult readers know, these feelings can all be found within a good book! 

It’s also important to note that when we give children choice in choosing their own books, we should also offer some tools to make this act easier. According to the National Literacy Trust in the UK, there are a few simple strategies that can help with this, otherwise choice for some, can feel overwhelming. 

3 simple steps to help children in their choice.

  1. It’s ok to browse. Browse is a way to slow down and take our time.
  2. Look for clues on the book, such as, the title or the blurb.
  3. Readability. Read the first page or two of the book, are you comfortable reading it? Do you recognize it as a genre that you enjoy?

As a children’s writer, who has also spent more than 20 years in children’s education, I can honestly tell you that the more we give children access, encouragement and choice within their reading journey, the more their lives will flourish!

Sarah Surgey is a children’s author who is based in the UK but published worldwide. Apart from writing full-time, Sarah is also a busy mum of 4 girls. She originally comes from a teaching background and has always enjoyed using books as a way to start conversations with children. 

https://www.scholastic.com/readingreport/access-matters.html#:%7E:text=Further%2C%20nearly%20nine%20in%2010,they%20finish%20reading%20a%20book

https://www.instagram.com/sarahsurgeywriter/

836 627 Sarah Surgey

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