Today is World Book Day. Our first as parents. I love that there is a day designated to celebrating reading and getting everyone, but especially the younger generation, buzzing about books. Reading is a very big thing in this household, and I am so excited about passing on this passion to our little girl. At the moment she is more interest in trying to grab the pages and chew the corners, but it’s still very early days! Reflecting on World Book Day got me thinking about the books from my childhood that have particular meaning for me, as well as those books which are already shaping up to be favourite reads for our little girl.
I am grateful to my mum for many things, not least for my early love of reading. Books as treats were the norm, as were school summer holidays whizzing by with my head in a book, completing inspiring reading quests and book treasure hunts run by the lovely local library. A life without books would be like being a dog without a stick. Manageable, but nowhere near as fun!
On my little trip down memory lane, all the usual ones are in there, like the Mr Men series, the Enid Blyton Famous Five and Secret Seven novels, the Roald Dahl classics. But the ones that immediately jumped to mind are not so main-stream these days I don’t think (if they were then!). Harriet and the garden by Nancy Carlson was an early favourite, although I remember the lovely illustrations more than the story. It was one that was read to me while I looked at the pictures, so perhaps that’s why. The Hodgeheg, by Dick King-Smith was a later one. I think his use of the English language is wonderful and, as a child reading this book, he challenged me and made me excited about words. He’s an author whose work I definitely look forward to introducing our daughter to, along with that of the fantastic Michael Morpurgo.
I devoured many a Gerald Durrell book around the end of primary school age, although my love for his stories started with My family and other animals. I was fascinated reading about the exciting far-flung places he wrote from, and the weird and wonderful creatures he found there. Colin Dann’s The animals of Farthing Wood is another one that sticks out in my memory. A complex, weighty story about the plight of woodland animals under threat by human activity, and their journey to safety. Was this children’s book one of the early influencers in my love for the natural world and my angst about animal welfare from a fairly young age? Quite possibly; I was a very old head on young shoulders!
Our growing children’s book library already has a lovely mix of classics and modern favourites. There are a bunch of Julia Donaldson books. The favourite amongst them at the moment is The smartest giant in town. It is beautifully written, with lots of interesting characters and a lovely sentiment. I adore listening in as my husband sits with our daughter snuggled in, doing his very best goat, giraffe and mouse voice-overs. It makes me smile every time. A beautiful set of Beatrix Potter books is still waiting for the right moment for its first reading. As they were for me, I’m sure that Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck and Mrs Tiggywinkle will be enchanting new finds for our daughter. But I’m not risking it until I can trust that the pages won’t be sucked, scrunched or accidentally ripped.
We have been reading Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar quite a bit recently. It helps that the version we have is a board book, so relatively baby-proof! But I also like the fun, repetitious text, the simple introduction to a tiny little bit of science, and the bold, colourful illustrations. I also gave Dear Zoo, by Rod Campbell, a test run the other day. At the moment I am holding it at arm’s length because all the lift-up flaps and pull-out sections are too delicate for baby enthusiasm, but it was definitely a hit that I think will be in the ‘old favourites’ pile.
I love that our little girl is already experiencing such a wide range of books, some of them not much older than she is, some from when her mum and dad were being read to, some from many years before that. Such a wealth of treasure to grow a love of reading from. If nothing else it gives plenty of scope for unusual future World Book Day character costume ideas in the years to come!