“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Dr Seus
One of the pleasures of having children in your life is being able to read to them. You have the chance to open up to them, to steal a song title from the 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Movie, a world of pure imagination. They can visit places, meet characters and have adventures that would never be possible in the real world.
I just love the expression on a child’s face when they are enthralled by a work of fiction – that wide-eyed expectation as the plot unfolds. Then the forlorn look when the book ends or the chapter draws to a close and they want to hear more.
As parents you can relive your childhood by sharing those books you loved when you were little. What a pleasure it was to read Gobbolino the Witches Cat to my daughter and to share the Narnia books with my son. You can also catch up on the books you missed out on. I don’t remember Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came To Tea the first time around (it was first published in 1968), but I must have read it to my children a hundred times. It has also been wonderful to read most of Roald Dahl’s back catalogue to my son and for us to experience them together for the first time.
There are some wonderful treasures from the past out there. Winnie-the-Pooh was first published in the 1920s, but the tales of Christopher Robin, Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore et al in Hundred Acre Wood kept my two entertained when they were growing up. Enid Blyton is another writer who still appeals to my youngsters. My five-and-a-half year-old daughter was enthralled by The Adventures of the Wishing Chair, tales that I remember fired up my imagination back in the day. Her eight-year-old brother is also quite keen on The Secret Seven books, a present from his nanna Sharon, who loved them when she was young.
Pippi Longstocking has been a recent discovery. The book, by Astrid Lindgren, was first published in 1945 in Sweden, but we have a lovely modern edition, illustrated by Lauren Child of Charlie and Lola fame. My daughter has been so drawn into the adventures of this unconventional nine-year-old with superhuman strength that she asked to dress up as her for World Book Day. We are also big fans of Shirley Hughes’ Alfie books in our house, worth a look just for the brilliant illustrations, and on book shelves since the late 1970s.
I am just as passionate about modern children’s books. My son and daughter have been brought up listening to and reading Julia Donaldson’s inspiring picture books. In fact I can still recite the adventures of the little brown mouse in the deep dark wood from The Gruffalo if asked to do so. Toddle Waddle was one of my daughter’s favourites by the former Children’s Laureate. She loved the clip clop, hurry scurry and flip flop sounds referred to and, although she has outgrown it now, she still insists that it remains on her book shelf. The same is true of What The Ladybird Heard, another Donaldson classic, featuring two crafty robbers trying to steal a prize cow.
Katie Morag is another feisty and independent character my daughter has become fond of. She first saw her featured in the CBeebies TV series of the same name, but more recently has been whisked off to the fictional Isle of Struay , off the west coast of Scotland, in the books by Mairi Hedderwick. My son, having dipped his toe in David Walliams’ Awful Auntie novel last Christmas, went on to finish the rest of his novels by February half term. He is now making his way through Cressida Cowell’s How To Train Your Dragon books.
I hope he and my daughter will always have their love of reading and it fills my heart with joy to think of all that is out there for them to discover between the covers of so many books.
My eight-year-old son’s favourite books
1 Grandpa’s Great Escape by David Walliams
2 Gangsta Granny by David Walliams
3 Demon Dentist by David Walliams
4 Billionaire Boy by David Walliams
5 The Boy In the Dress by David Walliams
6 Awful Auntie by David Walliams
7 Ratburger by David Walliams
8 Mr Stink by David Walliams
9 How to Speak Dragonese by Cressida Cowell
10 How To Twist a Dragon’s Tale by Cressida Cowell
11 War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
12 Five Children and It by E Nesbit
13 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
14 The BFG by Roald Dahl
15 Matilda by Roald Dahl
16 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis
17 The Magician’s Nephew by CS Lewis
18 The Diary of Dennis the Menace by Steven Butler
19 Secret Seven Adventure by Enid Blyton
20 The Secret Seven by Enid Blyton
My five-and-a-half-year-old daughter’s choice of books
1 The Singing Mermaid by Julia Donaldson
2 Katie Morag and the Dancing Class by Mairi Hedderwick
3 The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp
4 One Snowy Night (A Tale From Percy’s Park) by Nick Butterworth
5 Mog the Forgetful Cat by Judith Kerr
6 Paddington by Michael Bond
7 Calm Down Boris by Sam Lloyd
8 The Mr Men and Little Miss books by Roger Hargreaves
9 The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson
10 The Adventures of the Wishing Chair by Enid Blyton
11 Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
12 Gobbolino the Witches Cat by Ursula Williams
13 The Big Alfie and Annie Rose Storybook by Shirley Hughes
14 I will Not Ever Never Eat A Tomato (Charlie and Lola)by Lauren Child
15 The Collected Tales of Nurse Matilda by Christianna Brand
16 How To Hide A Lion by Helen Stephens
17 How To Hide A Lion From Grandma by Helen Stephens
18 The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy
19 My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards
20 Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird