The Rewards in your reading matter
During the summer Bloomsbury will publish Dr Katherine Rundell’s essay , ‘Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise’. Dr Katherine Rundell is exceptional. She is a Renaissance scholar, a Fellow at All Souls, Oxford, with a doctorate in the works of John Donne. She is a multi-award winning writer. I have shared her academic and publishing successes through this forum. (I’ve also mentioned her trapeze walking!)
What are the benefits to adults from reading children’s books?
Authors4Oceans and each other
The world of children’s readers, bookmakers and independent booksellers is largely very warm, supportive and Empathetic.
As a teacher arranging school visits, I realised the pleasure writers and illustrators felt in their own professional company. There was an instant connection, without professional hostility or fear. There is genuine friendship between writers and illustrators. They share stories of their individual experiences. They connect over problems and recommendations. I love the way they share each other’s triumphs. This community demonstrates why adults should read children’s books.
Award-winning writer, Lauren St John of The Snow Angel formed Authors4Oceans last year. Alongside other leading children’s writers and illustrators, including Sir Michael Morpurgo, Piers Torday, Katherine Rundell, Nicola Davies and Sir Quentin Blake, this group campaigns to remover plastics from our ocean. It is inspired and inspiring. Their initiative, commitment and engagement are typical of this profession.
What children’s books inspire in us
A parent shared , ‘I just had to tell you I’m reading R- No Fixed Address. We are about half way through. After I finished reading to her last night I continued the book as I just couldn’t put it down! I finished it… with many tears! It was so beautifully written. Thank you again for such a great recommendation. These sorts of books are just the way to start dialogues with the kids about such weighty topics that are normally so difficult to understand and Articulate.’
Just a little extra
I have learned more from children’s books than I’d ever have thought possible. For example, Emma Carroll’s writing has extended my knowledge of WWII enormously. I used to teach this subject. My father and uncles served in this conflict. Her latest title When We Were Warriors had me ‘touring’ England’s South Coast alongside Eddie Johnson, US soldier. I know her characters and their settings. ‘When We Were Warriors’ made me think on how much children who lived through that time experienced.
I felt the weight of Lillian’s sadness at her grandfather’s illness and father’s PTSD inspired silence in Secrets of a Sun King. Emma Carroll’s story about the search for Tutankhamen’s tomb offered me new knowledge and understanding. This was despite this subject being part of my teaching programme. I felt engaged by the Dramatic settings and storytelling
I sought escape through The Star-Spun Web, the latest title by Sinéad O’Hart. There is menace, history, deep, lingering empathy in this subtle, clever story. It is Inspirational. This story led to a Bookwagon team discussion about metaphysics.
Storm Hound is set in the hills outside Abergavenny. Writer Claire Fayers has built her story from the Welsh legends of the hounds of Annwn and Ceridwen. Despite my abbreviated, Anglicised, first name, I have no Welsh ancestry. Reading ‘Storm Hound‘ set me searching for stories of Ceridwen. What a treasury! My responses demonstrate another reason why adults should read children’s books.
Then there’s laughter
Mr Bookwagon has recently read the fourth of the Rory Branagan series- Rory Branagan Detective The Deadly Dinner Lady. I knew he was reading that title. His laughter was constant and loud! Ralph Lazar’s illustrations tickle him hugely. Yet there are unspoken questions and beating pathos within the plot. Where is Rory’s father? Roll on book 5!
I have a similar reaction to the illustrations of Gemma Correll, who works with A.L. Kennedy (yes, that one) on the outstanding ‘Uncle Shawn‘ series. Bizarre doesn’t even cover it! I love these stories! The message is subtle, yet strong (rather like paper towels). This week, I spied that a third title, sequel to Uncle Shawn and Bill and the Pajimminy Crimminy Unusual Adventure is due later this year. Reading such rich and amusing titles is Nurturing.
Bookwagon participated in a weekend focusing upon children’s reading in Taunton courtesy of Reading Rocks. This initiative was the brainchild of Liverpool primary teacher, Heather Wright. At the end of 2018, she was named one of TES’s people of the year:- TES People of the Year 2018.
Adults who read and love children’s books inspire, support and populate Reading Rocks. Bookwagon loves this happy place.
Children’s books are not a stage, just as picture books are not a step to chapter books. Books matter. Reading matters. Reading enables us to Grow, in Galvanising, Ground-breaking, Generous ways.
Our Reading Rocks’ pitch
During our Reading Rocks’ weekend, we shared and sold a selection of meaningful picture books. Each inspires me forward, connects me to a memory or feeling, or reminds me of someone or a place. Adults should read children’s books to have such emotional and intellectual experiences. I suggest these reactions are unique to reading picture books.
When I read Jerome’s words- Jerome By Heart- and look at his picture, I feel wretched.
Mr Bookwagon and I compared our childhood experience with the narrator of Hello, Monster!. Our parents, too, would urge us to play with lone children in the playground. Yet none of them would choose to ‘go and play with the lady with the pigeons!’
Making reading choices
Parents compare their offspring with themselves. They retrace their steps, recall and confirm their positions and actions. They want their children to read what they know and experienced. Sometimes they seem to want their children to read books that they did not like, but feel as though they should.
The idea that books are disposable, i.e., to operate in a ‘one in one out’, set number, route to adulthood, is anathema. We need books to feed our hearts and minds. There are writers and picture book makers whose creations merit a wide and loving reading audience. Bookwagon is determined to find, read, celebrate and share them.
I urge parents and teachers to find the time to read children’s books. What is available now, new titles published by superb writers and illustrators, is outstanding. Adults should read children’s books for the experience of something new, fresh, wonderful, challenging, emotional and inspiring.
All of us benefit from continually engaging, enquiring and learning. Knowledge and questions do not stop once we enter adulthood. There are too many examples in history and society that refute this. Adults should read children’s books to stay alive, find the joy, feel the stimulus, and be in touch with the world. They make us better people!
Happy (children’s books’) READING!