Can Books Help to Change the World?

When I look at the way the world is at the moment it can be overwhelming. Racism is something that I just don’t understand, why someone is judged by the colour of their skin is beyond my comprehension. As far as I’m concerned we’re all people, it’s our actions and the way we treat others, that deem what sort of person we are, nothing else. I equally don’t understand what it feels like to have that prejudice aimed at you, to constantly live in the shadow of racism, to have it affect your everyday life, to have it put up barriers that shouldn’t be there. I’m white. White by chance of birth of being born to two white parents. I didn’t choose my colour any more than someone who is black did. So why should anyone be judged for it? 

I’ve been wracking my brains, trying to think what I can do, in just a small way, to help to make a difference. I posted a black square on Instagram on #blackouttuesday but, although it showed my support, it didn’t show much else. I didn’t do anything. 

I felt similar to the way I did about the Covid-19 crisis. There I was at home, doing nothing to help to improve the situation (well, with Covid-19 I suppose I was doing something by staying at home, but you know what I mean). Then it occurred to me that the one thing I can do is to make sure that my son grows up embracing diversity. That he knows that the colour of someone’s skin, their nationality, religion or sexual orientation, is no reason to judge a person. And the best way for me to do that (asides from teaching by example)? Through the power of books. 

I know I mention books quite frequently on this blog but I just love them. I’d live in a bookshop if I could! Since I was small books have been my teachers, my refuge, a way to experience life in a way that I never could in the real world. They’ve taught me empathy, understanding and how to look at the world from someone else’s point of view. Books have helped to shape the way I think and view the world. 

Our little man seems to be developing a love of books which, as a lifelong bookworm, I’m delighted about. My method of reading to him every day since he was a tiny newborn seems to be paying off. I also tend to leave books where he can easily get to them.

However, although I want my little man to freely handle books, at the same time I don’t want all his books damaged so it’s finding that balance. My idea is to have some books that he can handle freely in his cot (that more than likely will suffer a bit) and then having others that he can handle under supervision. To me the most important thing at this stage is that he loves books, as he gets older and understands more I’ll teach him to treat them more carefully too. I just feel that his whole world will open up if he enjoys reading and a big part of that is allowing him to handle the books himself. After all I really do believe that a love of reading is a gift for life.

However at this point in his life his reading choices are dictated by us as he can’t yet choose his own! So it’s important to me that he is surrounded by books that are diverse and representative of the world we live in. I also want him to read books that teach kindness and understanding. So where to turn for inspiration? Instagram of course. There are some AMAZING children’s book accounts on Instagram that represent diversity, such as my great friend @alittlebookhabit (and she truly is – we became friends at Brownie Guides when we were eight years old!) who has some brilliant recommendations. Then there is @mamma_filz another great account I’ve recently discovered with a fantastic array of children’s books, @bookbairn which is an account I’ve loved for ages, @rosieslibrary is another lovely account, then there are more – @bookbloom, @everydayreading, @librarymombooks – the list goes on and on and I know I’m only touching the surface of what’s out there. 

If our children can learn empathy, kindness, inclusivity, honesty and integrity when they’re small then we’re looking at a much brighter and more hopeful future for all of us. The world needs to change and, in my humble opinion, books might just be a good place to start. 

Colette x

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