My earliest memories are being read to. My Mum always read to us kids at bedtime long before we could read for ourselves, and my father who was a hard working journalist and worked nights all week, lit-up Sunday walks by telling us stories he made-up as we trudged through the woods and fields with our dog – some of his stories I realised later weren’t so much made-up as loosely adapted from classic tales like Robin Hood or Treasure Island and even Dickens and Trollope. Clever man – not just for making up stories but for leading us down the path to what I would later learn to call literature and without any fear of what that might mean.
So the transition to reading books for myself instead being read to was easy. Why shouldn’t it be? Books meant only one thing to me – fun, adventure, excitement and laughter. I was very happy to pick-up a book when I felt like it at any time of day or night and I didn’t have to wait until the bedtime read.
Ah! Happiness! Happy memories. Paddington Bear, Winnie The Pooh, Mary Plain, The William books, Jennings, more Robin Hood, Pinnochio, Swallows and Amazons, Dr Dolittle, Dr Seuss… Wow! Sure, I loved television. I loved comic-books too but I also loved all these books and countless others.
There were no particularly harsh rules in my family about what was good to read or what was bad to read. I think my parents worked on the basis that if all I ever read was comics, if all I ever did was watch television then that would be not be a good thing but if I was lacing those enjoyments with vivid story-books that fired up my imagination and took me into other worlds, other times and into other minds – then all was well.
We should read to our kids for lots of reasons. It brings you closer to them for starters – what better than sharing an adventure together, or laughing together or even crying together over a good book. We should also read to them so that they will want to read for themselves – and why is that important? Because books contain knowledge and they open our minds to other people and to other points of view. They help us to understand how different cultures, different religions and different beliefs from our own should be appreciated and treasured, respected and enjoyed. Books give us new ideas, make our brains work better, make being human more enjoyable and face us with new challenges, hopes and aspirations. In short, I would suggest that we should all read to our kids because it is one thing we can do that makes us all a lot more civilised and a lot nicer than we might be otherwise.