There have been some very pleasing changes in books for children over the last ten years. Between these two extremes are simple hne pictures and various styles from almost photographic realism (indeed actual photographic reproductions in some cases), to impressionism. With more buying in from abroad cultural differences and varied approaches are introduced. The only sad thing is the rise in price. Even so books have not risen in price more than any other commodity and with the happy advent of paperback picture books at pocket-money-saving prices most parents should find it possible to provide some good books for their children. The problem is obtaining them. Very few bookshops have a wide stock to choose from or enough space in which to look at them properly. It is a pity that other outlets are not used more. Perhaps Infant Welfare Clinics could consider selling good picture books along with the ‘welfare’ foods -even two or three times a year would be useful. There are some schemes for selling paperback books in schools to pupils. Perhaps infant schools or nursery groups could be persuaded to have a termly ‘bookshop’ evening where parents could go along to look even if they cannot afford to buy every time. An important point for homes and nursery groups is that although there is not always agreement on what is ‘good’ it is usually quite obvious what is ‘bad’. We cannot always have the best but at least we can always reject the worst – the thoughtless unsuitable present or the boxful of tatty jumble-sale gleanings.
Libraries now make tremendous efforts to provide a children’s section where beautiful books are well dised; better still they provide small tables and chairs so that books can be chosen with care and in comfort. The only complaint one hears frequently is ‘Why don’t they provide lavatories for children, or safe places where babies in prams can be left under cover and within sight?’ Perhaps these amenities will come in time or perhaps a few pertinent suggestions in the right quarter might help. A toy library and coffee bar could also be added to the list of suggestions.
Children in nursery groups also benefit from extra library provision as most authorities allow groups to borrow books regularly on a generous scale. This ensures that new material comes in regularly to supplement what the nursery can offer.
Certainly in the nursery or the home there is a need for a basic collection of books which ‘belong’ as well as those which may be borrowed.