If I write the word ‘encyclopedia’ what is your first thought?
Does the word evoke the image of a dust gathering leather bound collection of books that would make a good door stop? So, let me let you into a secret. If you asked me this question a few months ago the answer would have been ‘yes’, but it is no longer.
I run a little family run pop-up book shop and a few months ago people started ordering copies of Children’s encyclopedia from me. I have to confess I was slightly bemused by this because I thought people just looked for information on the internet (I am very embarrassed to have made that confession now publicly). When the encyclopedias arrived I thought I would sneak a peek and that is when I had my encyclopedia Eureka moment. I understood why people were buying them. I sat there, opened the book at no place in particular and started reading. I first read about looking at the night sky, then I read about Victorian times and then how the world was getting warmer. After being mesmerised for a while I realised why people bought encyclopedias for their children; the way you can dip in and dip out, not looking for anything in particular but learning something new, unexpectedly, and of course the wonderful facts and illustrations that you absorb.
The internet for research can be a wonderful thing. But generally you or your child will go in search of a particular subject. The beauty of an encyclopedia is how it will provide a child with information that he or she was not necessarily searching for and open up a brand new topic and fascination for them.
Now the Children’s encyclopedia we have is not a reference book that gathers dust on the shelf, it is our bedtime reading book, it is read by my 10 year old and my 5 year old loves to look through the beautiful pictures and illustrations on his own and remembers what we read or asks questions about new topics.
Additionally, not all children love fiction. Some much prefer learning and absorbing facts. Encyclopedias as I remembered them as hard back, dark and dusty volumes are not the norm anymore for children. There are some incredible eye-catching versions, even pocket size, and they are very affordable.
So next time you are book browsing for your children (or even yourself) please pick up a Children’s Encyclopedia and see if you and your children also have that Eureka Encyclopedia moment.