The Importance of reading to children.

The Importance of reading to children.

My 'tech’ savvy' daughter in law tells me a blog 'is an expression of a person's thoughts which leads to online discussions'.

The above title is something I discussed with the publisher way back in March this year at our meeting in London and following a further online discussion with them this month I have been asked to write about my thoughts on the subject. So here goes! My blog!

I remember reading a phrase in the dim and distant past that ‘the children who read books today are the thinkers of tomorrow’. It has stayed with me for more years than I care to remember but is still as meaningful now as it was when I first read it.

I have always loved reading, as a youngster with my torch under the bedclothes I remember reading a complete set of classics received as a much loved Christmas present from my parents. My middle sister, (I am the youngest of three girls) who shared both bed and bedroom with me complained about my reading habit to my parents many times but it took the marriage of the eldest sister some years later and my move into her vacated bedroom before she was free of me and my annoying habit.

Each book I read as a child has stayed in my memory like a valued friend, some being re-read and enjoyed as an adult. Being transported to different situations and times became an escape from the mundane life of a child growing up in the sixties where money was scarce and schooling strict. Holidays from school were a round of adventures to be enjoyed. Making dens, fires, outside from early morning until curfew dinner time when Dad arrived home from work. We played at everything our imaginations could think of and we thought of lots due to the books we read. Some days we were cavaliers and Roundheads, Cowboys and Native American Indians, Medieval knights on horseback slaying dragons, I can remember one especially cold winter when the snow fell so high we made an igloo outside our front gate where it had drifted, we played at being eskimos in Greenland. We made ourselves fishing poles to pretend fish from sink holes we made in the deep snow. We were there! It was magical! We could be anything or anybody we wanted to, put ourselves in any situation or time we wanted and all from reading books.

For some reason my memory about the books I read starts around ten, (whether this is a known fact about adults memories being from that age I don't know) I vividly remember Miss Allen our teacher for year five at Primary school reading to us on Friday afternoons. If we had been especially good and got through our work for the week she would start her book of choice early, giving us a full magical hour of her melodious reading voice taking us through her copy of "The Wind in the Willows". We were transported to the river bank with ratty, in the road with Toad as he fell in love with cars and in Toad Hall where the evil weasels tried to take over Toads house. What an adventure it all was and in my memory this was my initial falling in love with reading. Such is the importance of how you read to children. Miss Allen was a master of her craft, she used different voices for the different characters and influenced a whole class of children to take part in a play of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’. I remember being Sneezy, chosen no doubt for my rather loud sneeze, which I still possess to this day.

Many years later, in Dubai, attending a job interview, I was asked if I could remember when I learnt to read, my interviewer having discovered my hobby of reading on my CV. I remembered learning to write as a young child, constantly copying and forming my letters using tracing paper and rubbing them out on the other side but actually learning to read, no. I told him I thought I'd been born able to read. (Total rubbish I know). We then spent a good half hour discussing Children’s Literature and I went on to tell him about Miss Allen her influence as a teacher and her introduction to the magic of ‘The Wind in the Willows’, a book it turned out that he also loved as a child. Needless to say he gave me the job and I spent many happy but sometimes exhausting hours working in the Deira International School in Dubai.

As a mum I read to my children, from being tiny they received books, (with a token small chocolate egg) as Easter presents each year. Books were their reward, saved up for with pocket money and bought on trips into town. We even had 'handbag books' that fitted in my handbag taken to places where sitting still and being quiet might be difficult. These books were special for them. Miniature things fascinate young children and even though the stories were sometimes the same as their larger copies the tiny books were special because they were not always on offer. I still have some of their books saved from their childhood, where they have written their names in big letters in the front, how could I ever part with them!

On our move to France when friends were helping me fill the lorry I was driving down to the house we were renovating, I was asked why I had so many boxes of books. (This from a teacher friend). I was quite taken aback. When I told him it was because I couldn't part with good friends he gave me a shake of his head and a look of sheer disbelief. "Viva la difference!"

As time passed and I became a grandparent my love of reading took on a renewed energy. Children's bookshops were scoured for the latest young picture books, out came the old favourites, The very Hungry Caterpillar, well-thumbed and with a few extra big holes where little fingers insisted on following the caterpillar as he chomped his way through his delightful ‘smorgesboard’ was opened once again.

Now they are grown I look on as they peruse the bookshops with me on my visits. We still love to choose the latest in the series they are reading and at Christmas they all receive a book chosen for their interests, I mostly get it right!

I was floored by my last visit, this March, when I was very politely informed by our eleven year old grandson that he was now eleven and ‘had been reading for many years so wouldn’t require a bedtime story Grandma thank you for all the stories you have told me but I am grown up now’. I went downstairs feeling totally redundant as a Grandma! I sat in the lounge and hoped he hadn’t seen my feelings in my face as I do have one of those faces that show everything. When I told his father what had transpired I was positive about his lovely manners thanking me for reading to him over the years. Little did he know just how much pleasure it has given me encouraging the same love of reading I have had all my life. I did wonder how long he had been letting me continue with the reading whilst knowing he was totally capable. I hadn’t felt so dejected since the youngest son left home.

With my being a positive person I have my fingers and toes crossed that we maybe will be blessed with another grandchild.

The children’s books are all packed away and waiting!

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