Last weekend my husband, our two year old and I went for a woodland walk. It became apparent very quickly that this wasn’t going to be just any run of the mill amble through the countryside. We were going on a hunt for the Gruffalo.
Our walk ended up consisting of a series of, “Is he in there” type scenarios, looking for a log pile house, trying to spot the owl in the treetops, and ended with lots of splashing in the muddy puddles we found along the way.
Within weeks of him being born, I read to J. He enjoyed looking at the pictures, and seeing the shapes of the words. Now he asks to read his own book, once it has been read to him. A sure sign that, as with most things at the moment, he would like to have some more independence in this area of his life too.
But he still loves story time and will ask for at least four books to be read to him every night.
Not long after his first birthday, I created a reading corner for him in our lounge. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he has soft cushions, a small mattress covered in a throw and a selection of books that he can choose from. It’s also a break out area for him to be able to get some “me” time away from everything else.
Invariably either my husband or I are invited to sit next to him in the corner, and it’s here that we discover the latest things that are fascinating him.
Whether it’s a more seasonal reading of The Snowman by Raymond Briggs, seeing Percy slide into the sea as part of the Thomas the Tank Engine series, or hearing his fascination with Elmer the patchwork elephant, it’s an incredibly special time.
I am well aware that as a parent, these fleeting moments, will soon be but a distant memory, although I’d love to preserve them for as long as I can. And long may his love for books and learning continue.
Another scary prospect, which will be soon upon us, is the start of school. With this in mind, I visited a local primary school recently to see whether I could imagine him being as happy there as possible. During the tour with the head teacher, she said that a love of books was more important to her than the completion of any homework. My heart was filled with joy in that moment, as I also believe this to be the case.
Not only do books encourage a love of reading and writing, but they take children on a journey to a magical place where their imaginations can run riot. Many an evening I have spent falling into a bog thanks to Julia Donaldson’s Room in a Broom, or creeping past a big blue dinosaur, following one of many readings of Dinosaur Roar.
This is one of the main reasons that I became an author. I would love to inspire children to have a love of books and reading from as young an age as possible. Seeing the profound effect that books can have on children, both at home and during school visits, has only reaffirmed this aim.
I disagree with parents who say, “Oh they won’t understand books yet.” Who are we to decide when something might inspire them, or capture their attention?
I don’t think that children can ever be too young for books, to be introduced to new characters, and to explore the world through the safety of the written and pictorial world.
What has intrigued me as I’ve been promoting my own book, is the number of parents who say but “she’s only eight months old”, it’s too soon. Too soon for who? Too soon to be able to share that amazing bonding time together? Too soon for parents to buy books rather than another piece of plastic? Or too soon for their child to appreciate the beautiful world that can quite literally unfold in front of them?
On this, the 20th anniversary of World Book Day, no doubt parents with slightly older children will be frantically scrambling around trying to make a suitable character costume for the relevant school activities.
But what we shouldn’t overlook is that reading to and with your child should start ideally from weeks of them being born.
It’s an incredible gift to pass on, and one that I feel should be the duty of all parents to do. Finding the time to read together and instil a love of reading and subsequently writing is one that should hopefully last a lifetime.
What an incredible thing you are giving to your child. To know that you have set them on the right path from the beginning – so they love their books and story time.
There’s so much to discover and so much fun to be had. Research has proved that books and imagination go hand in hand.
So what are you waiting for? It’s never too early to buy a book and to start that journey together.
And of course have a lot of fun along the way.