One of my favourite parts of being a parent is story time. I love having the excuse to revisit the books I read as a child; from the forties pictures in the Ahlbergs’ baby book Peepo to the wildly imaginative world of Roald Dahl.
Children’s Book Week began on Monday and it got me thinking about how much joy books bring to mine and Tom’s lives. That time when I have finished bathing and feeding him and I am reading to him is magic – and has been since he was a baby. It’s as much escapism for me as it is for him, given the fact I have to try to get my head engaged to clean up the kitchen and do the washing and get stuck into my own writing when I go back downstairs. Tom chooses a book then clambers up the wooden ladder into bed and I lean against the high sleeper and read it to him.
It’s not just bedtime stories that are special; last Friday, when the summer made a surprise return, I bought Tom a copy of Just So Stories from the charity shop. Our back yard was in the shadow of the house but the sun was beating on the front door until it creaked. We sat on the doorstep in the sunshine, our feet outstretched on the hot pavement as I read How the Whale Got His Throat to Tom.
When he was elected to be on the Pupil Council* a couple of weeks ago, I took Tom to the charity shop and let him choose a book. He came over with a pristine, hardback one called Are You A Ladybird? In the summer, Tom and I discovered scores of orange and black spiny insects crawling on a rock outside his school. Google told me that they were ladybird larvae and we watched with amazement as they turned into cocoons and then full-grown ladybirds. I had never thought about how ladybirds came to be ladybirds before. I love it when I learn new things because of Tom. Are You a Ladybird?is a beautifully illustrated account of the life cycle of the ladybird and I couldn’t think of a more fitting book to buy him to mark that day.
Books are integral to our family life, but it’s a real shame that in an age when everyone’s short of cash and books are so cheap, not enough children have access to them at home. A teacher friend asked her class whether they have stories read to them or watch them on DVDs and they all put their hands up for the latter. Look at the fancy dress costumes on World Book Day at many primary schools and you’ll see hardly any book characters, but plenty of Disney Princesses and Ben Tens. What happened to using your imagination to picture a book in your head? Why spend hundreds of pounds on games consoles and new games when you could just walk your child to the nearest charity shop or library and let them choose a book for pence or even free?
There are lots of ideas of how to celebrate Children’s Book Week on the Booktrust website. If you’re a parent, make some memories: buy your little one a new book this week and take some time to sit and read it together.
It’s simple and old fashioned, but it really works.
*In more insect news, Tom had his second Pupil Council meeting today and put forward an idea for Insect Club, where children have to hunt for and learn about insects whilst dressed as insects. I wish I could see the minutes of these meetings.