Saturday, February 12, 2011

Born Readers

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.
-Emilie Buchwald

We established a bedtime ritual of story-reading with Lefty and Righty when they were very small, probably about seven months old.  Fresh out of the bath, ginger hair curling around their round, red-cheeked faces, they sat mesmerised as we read board books: HugDK My First ABCsHappy Dog Sad DogPeepoWhere is Maisy?Hand Hand Fingers Thumb, and countless nursery rhymes.  They were entranced by poems, rhymes, and any words with rhythm.  I have memories of reading nursery rhymes for hours on end when they were ill.  We would finish the book, turn back to the beginning, and read it again.  They hardly moved as their ears drank in the cadence and beat of the rhyming words.  They listened intently as Dan read The Hobbit aloud to them when they were four.  Now, at eight, they're reading on their own, everything from Winnie-the-Pooh to Lord of the Rings to Beano and Dandy.

Mr J has barely heard a nursery rhyme through to completion in his life.  From a very young age, he preferred beautifully illustrated picture books.  He is a visual learner, and he appears to love looking at the pictures more than hearing the words.  We read through a compilation of four of Shirley Hughes' heavily pictorial Alfie books constantly when he was around two.  All four Alfie stories, every day.  For months.  Now, at five, he recently listened to Dan read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe aloud with his brothers, but lost interest when they moved on to the next book in the series.  He enjoys trips to the library.  While there he pores over stacks of books, but rarely wants to bring any home.  He loves the visual action of Beano and Dandy books, and sometimes I overhear the murmur of his voice, reading out the script under his breath. I can imagine him being completely fascinated by comic books when he's older.

Coo first fell in love with The Hungry Caterpillar when she was less than a year old.  She had a habit of poking her finger through the holes in the pages and getting it stuck.  These episodes did not put her off, and we read it constantly for several months.  Then she realised that The Hungry Caterpillar was not the only book on the bookshelf!  There were dozens of them!  All well-used, slightly shabby looking now after years of love from the older ones, but for her, a treasure trove.  She loves all the books her brothers loved and more.  She sits through entire readings of  The Snow Children,  Children of the Forest, and The Tomten, talking about the pictures as we go.  There's the "babies", the Queen, the Princess, the Snowmen.  The Daddy, the Mama, the owl, the frog, the hedgehog.  The snow, the farm, the Tomten.  She mimics the voices I use for the different characters.  She pulls out her gifted-by-Grammy Stella books. "Tella, Tella!" she shouts, pushing the box into my hands.  Sometimes we manage to read all four, and she sits back half an hour later with a satisfied sigh as we put the final book into the box.  She shoves her thumb in her mouth and her two feelie blankets over her nose.  "Bye, bye, Tella!"

What were your favourite childhood books or picture books?  Leave me a comment; I'm curious to know!


  1. My favourite books at school were the solve-the-thriller books by Wolfgang Ecke, which completely engaged that piece of me which was otherwise found to be daydreaming! I felt so intelligent whenever i'd got it figured out - they were great for my self-esteem!

    The other book I remember fondly was 'The Cats of Seroster" by Rpbert Westall, an author from the NE of England. It was first venture into fantasy - I can't remember where I even got the book, but I must have read it at least 20 times - I'd love to get a copy and read it through again!

  2. N8orious3:15 am

    I'm glad to see that your love for reading has passed on to all your Children...

    As for me, I always enjoyed "Dogger" and "Emergency Mouse"...I still read them every now and again :P

    C.S. Lewis said, "Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."
    I never want to be too "old" to read children books...So instead, I will simply keep reading them now and always, so I never have to really get old to read them again :)

  3. Good idea; me too! :)


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