One of the greatest skills we can learn in life is to be able to read. People around the world will be celebrating this skill on September 8th, 2021, on International Literacy Day. We all know how important books are for opening windows on the world. So, to mark this special day, here are our favourite books about books!
Books about Reading
- Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books by Cathy Rentzenbrink: In this delightful memoir, we learn about the author’s favourite books and how they have helped at important points in her life.
- The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: This novel is set in Barcelona in 1945 and follows the story of a book dealer’s son who finds comfort after his mother’s death by reading a book called The Shadow of the Wind. He tries to find the author’s other books but discovers that all the others have been destroyed, taking him on a quest for the truth.
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: Another historical novel, set in 1939 in Nazi Germany. Liesel finds The Gravedigger’s Handbook and it starts a love of books which sees her stealing books from lots of places, including from the Nazi book-burnings.
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: This dystopian novel shows us a world in which books are not allowed and ‘firemen’, like the main character Guy Montag, burn any books which are found. The story shows us what happens when Guy begins to question his role as a ‘fireman’.
The Healing Power of Children’s Books
International Literacy Day celebrates the journey towards being able to read, and some of our most treasured stories are those we read as a child or young adult when we were first exploring the world of books. But children’s books can bring us joy and healing well into our adult years. Think Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, or the Northern Lights trilogy, which find as many fans among adults as young people. There are a vast number of titles aimed at children or young adults which can teach us all something, no matter our age, our reading level, or how seriously we approach life.
Why you should read children’s books
Author Katherine Rundell makes a plea to adults to be more open to reading children’s books in her essay called Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise. She says:
“Children’s books are specifically written to be read by a section of society without political and economical power. People who have no money, no vote, no control over capital or labour or the institutions of the state; who navigate the world in their knowledge of their vulnerability. And, by the same measure, by people who are not yet preoccupied by the obligations of labour, not yet skilled in forcing their own prejudices on to other people and chewing at their own hearts. And because at so many times in life, despite what we tell ourselves, adults are powerless too, we as adults must hasten to children’s books to be reminded of what we have left to us, whenever we need to start out all over again.” (pages 42-43)
It can also be a healing process to see the world through a child’s eyes again. Trauma suffered in childhood often sets in motion ripples of damage which can last a lifetime. Many characters in books for children and young adults are struggling with battles which might resonate and perhaps speak to our own inner child. Here is a selection of recommendations to hopefully you show you the world of children’s books beyond Harry Potter…
Books for young adults about addiction
- I Felt a Funeral in My Brain by Will Walton: The story deals with loss, love and addiction in both poetry and prose.
- Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow: A tale of loss, self-harm, healing and recovery.
- Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel: A coming-of-age story about abuse and addiction.
Books for children and young adults about adventure
- Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan: Asha and Jeevan must journey across the Himalayas in search of Asha’s missing father.
- The Explorer by Katherine Rundell: Fred is a passenger on a plane that crashes in the Amazon rainforest.
- The Boy I Am by K.L. Kettle: A thriller which subverts traditional gender roles and sees Jude caught up in a plot to assassinate the Chancellor.
Books for children and young adults about foster care and adoption
- Far From the Tree by Robin Benway: Three siblings are separated but Grace starts looking for her biological family.
- What I Carry by Jennifer Longo: In care, Muir has learnt not to get too attached to anyone or anything, but in her last placement at 17, she begins to get attached – despite herself.
- The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson: This is the first in a series of books about 10-year-old Tracy who lives in a children’s residential home that she calls ‘The Dumping Ground’.
Books by Black authors for children and young adults
- Children of the Quicksands by Efua Traoré: Set in Nigeria and introducing people to Yoruba myths and legends, it touches on family and grief themes.
- Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C James: A book about a barber shop and a young boy who discovers confidence and self-esteem.
- Off the Record by Camryn Garrett: A teenage journalist has to decide what to do with a huge #MeToo story.
Books for children and young adults on LGBTQ+ themes
- Nothing Ever Happens Here by Sarah Hagger-Holt: When Izzy’s dad comes out as Danielle, a trans woman, Izzy has to find her voice and confront the bullies.
- Thanks a Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas: A nervous and anxious teenager meets a more confident and popular one. The question is whether Ezra will be there to support Brian or whether he’s going to out him?
- George by Alex Gino: George knows she’s a girl, even if everyone else sees a boy when they look at her. When her teacher says the lead part of the play must be a girl, she has to devise a plan so everyone can see who she really is.
By Katy Simpson (volunteer.) To find out more about volunteering with Give a Book, click here.