If you ever find time to Netflix and chill in amongst all the planning and assessment, you might have caught Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up, in which the Japanese organising consultant compels viewers to de-clutter their lives and homes.
Now, I am conscious that my classroom would undoubtedly benefit from the trained eye of a professional organising consultant, although I doubt a teacher’s salary would stretch to such expertise. What I – and numerous other bibliophiles – take issue with is Kondo’s minimalist dictum stating that book collections should be limited to 30.
I am willing to concede that space-saving Kindles and e-readers have their place. And that place is tucked in the drawer, to be brought out only when there’s no room left in the suitcase for a War and Peace-sized stash of holiday reading. A low-lit, glare-free screen is simply no substitute for the texture and aroma of a good book. What’s more, books tell stories. “Duh!” I hear you say, “that’s a statement of the bleedin’ obvious” but what I really mean is that a well-stocked bookcase can trace the story of its owner’s life, from the children’s stories that first inspired a love of reading to the influential tomes that helped shape the person they’ve become. Some of us live through books, as Stig Abell, editor of The Times Literary Supplement, concurs: “I have hundreds of books I rely on to help me get through life; chucking them out would be an act of self-harm.”
There’s a counter-argument that 30 chapters is a pretty full life (and that there are certain chapters not worth revisiting) but I’d still find it impossible to condense my own collection into Kondo’s magic number. On the other side, there are probably just as many bibliophobes who won’t come close to reading, let alone treasuring, 30 books during their lifetime.
One of the reasons I keep favourite books is to share them with future generations. The same impulse drove me to raid charity shops so that I could furnish my first ever classroom with a library of delights for young readers. During our dedicated time for reading, there was no excuse for any member of the form not to have a book in front of them. Admittedly, some were still doing more reading off the phone hidden under the table, but many books were taken home and never returned; I like to think they now tell a significant story on their new owner’s bookshelf.
So, here’s an idea for any Kondo acolytes who are busy clearing shelf space: donate your unwanted paperbacks and hardcovers to a teacher in the hope that they find their way into the hands of a child yet to discover the joys of reading. One person’s clutter is another person’s treasure.
30 Books to Inspire Young Minds
- Inside Out and Back Again – Thanhha Lai
- Teacher’s Dead – Benjamin Zephaniah
- Street Child – Berlie Doherty
- The Reason I Jump – Naoki Higashida
- The Fox and the Star – Coralie Bickford-Smith
- A Stitch in Time – Penelope Lively
- The Hit – Melvin Burgess
- Make Your Bed – William H. McRaven
- It’s Your World – Chelsea Clinton
- Stories for Kids Who Dare to be Different – Ben Brooks
- I Am Malala – Malala Yousafzai
- Paper Towns – John Green
- The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness
- We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- My Name is Mina – David Almond
- Holding Up the Universe – Jennifer Niven
- Mortal Engines – Philip Reeve
- Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli
- The Girl Who Thought in Pictures – Julia Finley Mosca
- Wonder – R. J. Palacio
- Lord of the Flies – William Golding
- 1984 – George Orwell
- Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
- The Iron Woman – Ted Hughes
- The Outsiders – S. E. Hinton
- A Kestrel for a Knave – Barry Hines
- Foxy-T – Tony White
- Oh, the Places You’ll Go – Dr Seuss
- Lies We Tell Ourselves – Robin Talley
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