When my daughter, Adele, was about four years old, it was clear that she had a will of her own. There was a determination about her that I’d first seen when she started crawling and she’d move around the house exploring her new territory. I loved watching her, staying close enough to keep an eye on her but far enough away to let her find her own way of negotiating things.
As Adele grew up, I was proud to watch that strong-minded character develop, but not everyone was convinced. I could see people thinking ‘Hmmm, she’s going to be difficult.’ But they were wrong. That strong-willed girl has turned into an amazing 18-year-old who has a strong sense of independence and whose opinions I really value.
As a mum, I let both my children explore their world without too much interference. Of course, I made sure they were safe, but I felt it was important for them to have their own space to figure things out for themselves. In that respect, I followed the Montessori philosophy of allowing kids to develop naturally, giving them chance to learn by their own actions rather than through rigid instructions.
Adele was the inspiration for the Tidy Books strapline ‘Kids know best’ (it was also a bit of a tongue-in-cheek play on ‘Mum knows best’). I truly believe that, when it comes to reading, children are able to make and develop their own book choices when they’re given the opportunity. That was my thinking behind my first design, the front-facing bookcase because it allowed kids to pick out a book without the help of a parent. It gave kids their independence.
My own belief is backed up by research that shows children should have more of a say in their own reading material. One American study found that kids whose parents were choosing their books were turned off reading. The findings also revealed that if a family were in a bookshop, a child would pick a book they thought their parents would want them to read. The conclusion was that kids like to discover books for themselves – and allowing them to make their own choices inspired them to read more.
I totally agree. The whole ethos behind Tidy Books is to give kids a sense of independence so that they feel free to choose their own books. It widens not just their world of reading but also opens up the opportunity to make their own choices in life. Kids really do know best. Just ask Adele...