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Reading with Kids

I think it’s so sad that some children apparently grow up in houses without books. Books were a vital part of my childhood experience and of my progression towards adulthood. I have very clear memories of running a finger along the spines of the volumes of my own father’s bookshelves and thinking to myself, ‘maybe I’m almost ready for these now.’ I remember reading the books that he read as a child and sharing his appreciation of them, exploring those worlds in his footsteps, decades later. I grew to love Arthur Ransome’s books and Richmal Crompton’s, just as he had. Children of parents who do not read and who do not appreciate the value of books miss out on so much. When my own offspring were young my wife and I did everything in our power to encourage a love of reading in them. I remember reading to them at bed-time and (after an exhausting day) finding my own eyelids drooping before theirs. I remember devising any number of encouragements and incentive schemes to encourage them to progress through the early readers that cemented their skills and gave them the means to enjoy the world of literature around them. Their bedrooms were crammed with every shape and size of books, ranging from pop-ups to encyclopaedias and atlases. There was every kind of story book, of course, and a generous nod in the direction of the classics that every child ought to read, such as AA Milne and Roald Dahl. Now that our children have grown up the vast weight of this literary trove burdens the rafters in our attic, together with the more durable of their toys. One day, perhaps, we shall be grandparents and we may begin to play our parts in this hugely rewarding process once more. My sons both read widely and I’m quite sure that they will wish to pass on the baton of literacy themselves. A few days ago, I came across a linocut I made for my eldest when he was small child. I used this to print, photocopy/shrink and make book plates to be fixed in the front of his books. It makes me smile now to think that I wanted to make his own library special to him and it gives me some satisfaction to know that I succeeded in this.

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