Last night I got totally conned by my two kids. Instead of the usual three bedtime stories and a quick song (I am a closeted wannabe pop star), I succumbed to the chants of “one more mum!” No, my kids weren’t interested in an encore performance of Beyoncé’s Halo, they wanted me to read another story before their final kiss goodnight.
As much as I was desperate to finish the bedtime routine so I could tuck into my hidden stash of chocolate uninterrupted, I succumbed to reading four more books because I really want my kids to fall in love with reading the way I did as a child.
Reading is an essential part of childhood because it helps to build language skills, develop a healthy imagination and inspire creativity. It also enhances our emotional intelligence as we laugh and cry along with our beloved protagonists and nervously anticipate the fate of their adversaries. Reading not only helps children make sense of the world around them, it transports them to other worlds full of possibility and surprise where they can be or do anything they desire.
Like so many, one of my favourite childhood books was The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I remember being totally transfixed by the adventures of Jo, Bessie, Fanny and Dick as they explored the lands of Topsy Turvy, Spells, Dreams and Do-As-You-Please. I couldn’t wait to lose myself in the pages of my book collection, which also included the Nancy Drew series, everything by the genius Roald Dahl, and an impressive collection of Archie and Jughead comics.
Roald Dahl is a genius in the eyes of children and adults alike. Image: BFG, Quentin Blake .
As my love of books grew, so did my love of writing and I completed my first (yet to be published) novel at the ripe old age of eight -- a loosely plagiarised version of James and The Giant Peach featuring a flying apple. My collection of fluffy toys and Barbies thankfully appreciated my book obsession and would obligingly participate in story time without interrupting. If only I could say the same for my kids.
While interrupting the flow of the story with numerous questions and offbeat observations on the narrative, I love how my kids’ faces light up when I begin another story about a caterpillar with an insatiable appetite or a smelly bear who refuses to bath. While they are too young to read the stories themselves, I hope that being surrounded by books will continue to bring them joy as they learn to make sense of the words on the page without the assistance of my questionable accents and enthusiastic sound effects. If, like many kids, they stumble or get frustrated at words they don’t understand, I will guide them through these rough spots as best I can.
Jacqui reading to her kids. Image: Wendy Stiles Photography.
Parents play a pivotal role in developing their children's love of books. We are their first teachers of literacy and responsible for nudging them towards the bookshelf. My dad instilled a love of reading in me from an early age. His bedside table always contained a pile of dog-eared books and the latest Wilbur Smith novel was a guaranteed winner for Father’s Day, Christmas or a birthday gift. He passed his love of books onto me by ensuring my requests for books and reading time were always fulfilled while my mum ferried me to and from the library to allow me to continue ploughing through the old school Dewey Decimal catalogue.