My earliest book memories are the classic Little Golden Books. I had a bedhead bookshelf full of them, which I used to learn to write by copying all the words underneath in the books. Oops, naughty me! I remember the magical delights of these and so many other colourful picture books, eagerly turning the page to see what was to be revealed next. So many of us will no doubt remember the mischief of Naughty Amelia Jane, the wonder of The Magic Faraway Tree and so many other Enid Blyton stories of adventure and magic.
I particularly remember in primary school when a favourite teacher of mine would read aloud in class. I was utterly captivated by James and the Giant Peach and Charlotte’s Web, my imagination ignited by wonderful characters and the rich details of the worlds they inhabited, the thrill of being carried along with them on their journeys as page after page was read aloud. This is still one of my most vivid and profound memories of school. I remember the joys of stories being read aloud in my own children’s kindergarten class – all that fun of wiggling on the mat and calling out reactions.
I also recall being given books in my primary years as ‘Pupil of the Week’ awards. I still have my dear old copy of good old Pollyanna! Are we still giving children books as prizes these days? My children’s primary school does have a day a year, as part of Book Week, where they can bring in books they have outgrown and swap them for something new – this is such a great
idea! It gives children access to new pre-loved books, and I think it is access that is vital in encouraging children to develop a lifelong enjoyment of reading. It certainly worked for me!
I love that my own children still huddle under the doona with a torch at night to devour Tolkien, Rowling and all manner of stories when they should be asleep. But I feel that I am a lucky parent that my children love to read, and read widely. Perhaps they are lucky that both parents are avid readers, that I am an English and Writing teacher, and that they have ready access to a wide range of books both at home and at school. But sometimes they need a bit of a nudge, a suggestion to read something that was written a long time ago.
What can we do to encourage our children – and others – to explore the magic of stories past? I like the idea of finding old books being an adventure in itself. Second hand bookstores, markets, garage sales and charity shops, along with the local library (including the old book giveaways!) can make the discovery of books, both new and old, a treasure hunt.
I’m also a big believer in reading aloud, and treasure memories of snuggling up in my bed with two little people either side of me to read hundreds of bedtime stories including We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, The Wide Mouthed Frog, The Rattletrap Car, the entire collection of Beatrix Potter and Roald Dahl books and the Tuesday McGillycuddy adventures. Even my big kids in Year 10, 11 and 12 enjoy being read to. I am thrilled this year that a few of them, at least, are lovers of those dear to my own heart - Dickens, Hardy, Austen and Bronte, among others – but again, perhaps we have a role in making them aware of these and other authors, giving them a taste and hoping that a few more of them might follow a narrative trail into a whole other realm of books.
Teacher, CBCA Tas Newsletter Editor