How a new reading initiative took me back to my childhood
Yesterday (Wednesday 24 February) I took part in a storytelling event at Islington Central Library which conjured up so many lovely memories for me that I didn’t want to leave.
I had been commissioned by the charity BookTrust to help their Patron, The Duchess of Cornwall, launch their latest initiative; the Bookstart Bear Club. Children aged 5 and under who use the library will receive a free picture book in which to collect ten stickers. They will then be given a sticker each time they visit the library and will receive a certificate once their book is complete.
The Duchess of Cornwall gave an exclusive first reading of Bear’s Reading Adventure, the rhyming picture book which has been developed by BookTrust especially for this programme. Before she arrived one of the children asked if she was Cinderella because she is married to a prince; I thought this connection was wonderful given the focus on sharing stories and books at the event. Once she arrived the nursery pupils quickly warmed to her and sat mesmerised at her feet.
Watching their faces, seeing them joining in and laughing led me to wonder how many children are still read to at home?
When I think about reading aloud I have so many memories that have shaped my behaviour as a parent, a reader and a practitioner:
- My father reading “Winnie the Pooh” to me at bedtime – something I enjoy doing now with my boys
- Inspiring teachers who read aloud to me during my childhood – at nursery, primary and secondary school. (In later years, this included whole books read over the course of a few weeks – not just extracts.)
- Practising reading aloud in preparation for Speech and Drama exams as a teenager
- Watching and listening to talented authors and illustrators read their books aloud as a child and in my role as a publisher – Julia Donaldson, Jill Murphy, Tracey Corderoy, Anthony Browne and John Agard spring to mind as being particularly entertaining
- Listening to our dear neighbour, a retired teacher, read aloud to friends of all ages by the fireside. It was always Macbeth at Halloween and A Christmas Carol in December.
- My husband reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road to me in the evenings in our first flat (Note to self: must do more of that!)
- Countless images of little children’s faces who have been moved in some way by my reading books aloud to them in schools, libraries, literary events and in my Reading Fairy classes.
We know that reading books aloud can help children develop critical literacy skills and nurture a love of reading for life but evidence has also shown the impact of reading for pleasure on a child’s future academic success. Reading aloud in the early years is a big part of nurturing a love of books. It’s a time when a child may not be able to decode words yet and may struggle to read rich texts fluently and with expression. Hearing interesting quality stories develops skills they will need as a reader and writer.
Of course, it develops other skills too such as: critical thinking, imagination, comprehension skills, concentration, a rich vocabulary, modelling reading behaviours and more. For many children, especially at home, it’s a time to feel safe (even when tackling challenging subjects) and a chance to create a bond with a special grown-up too.
I really enjoyed working with BookTrust again and I hope the children from Sacred Heart School remember their special story time with the Duchess for many years to come.
You can make great story time memories. If you have a child under 5, why not visit your local library and enquire about the Bookstart programme, or visit the website for more information. You can find more photos on the Reading Fairy Facebook page and the event was also covered by one of the local newspapers.