A brief note of thanks to Deanie Humphrys-Dunne! Deanie, who has created some lovely characters for children in her books, did me the great honour of interviewing me for her blog. Thanks, Deanie! I don’t know what I’ve done to be featuring on sop many blogs at the moment!!
Yesterday, I was chatting, via email, to Chris, of The Storytelling Ape fame, about children and the books they love. In fact, as Chris had been kind enough to invite me to make a suggestion or two for his special Kids Korner blog, in terms of books recommended, I was sent into a lengthy reverie. Emerging from this happy state, I was able to name one book, My Cat Beany by Jane Feder (illustrated by Karen Gundersheimer), which my eldest son adored above all others and which was one of three that I was required to read to him at bedtime, even though we were both word perfect on it! The other two were A Wet Monday by Dorothy Edwards (famed for her My Naughty Little Sister tales) and, at the right time of the year The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore. In the course of this chat, I recalled not only these three great favourites, particularly for bedtimes, but also something which might seem contradictory to a subject I’ve discussed previously.
When our eldest was still little, Marshall Cavendish released certain partworks. One was Story Teller and the other was Little Story Teller. These featured stunningly illustrated stories, old and new, and each issue came with an audio cassette (for those now thoroughly lost, they predated CDs!). We mortgaged our souls, virtually, to buy Little Story Teller! We even bought the beautiful, strong, padded plastic covered binders (they could have done with being a bit more able to store the magazines without bulging!) and the equally excellent quality cassette cases. Why? Because we acknowledged that our son’s appetite for reading far exceeded the time we could devote to reading to him, especially as his brother and then his sister put in their appearances. When there was no alternative, he would lie on the floor, on his belly, with an old portable cassette player, listening to tape after tape, and following the tales in the magazines. I couldn’t begin to guess at how many hours he spent like that! We also acquired odd issues of Story Teller from charity shops. Theoretically, they were well beyond his age. He still consumed them eagerly! Then, as a result of the chat with Chris, and recalling how our son had fallen in love with a tale about Gobbolino, the Witch’s Cat, I just had to explore a bit. As a consequence, I came upon a wonderful blog that’s devoted to Story Teller/Little Story Teller! If you’re an addict of the partworks, or if you’re just curious, please do visit the blog! There are even some Youtube links for some of the tales from the series. (My son was thrilled when I sent him the link!) Partworks are everywhere, these days, but I know of none that represent such excellent value as these old ones.
The aforesaid isn’t a contradiction! I don’t believe that audiobooks are evil replacements for human interaction! I simply believe that they must always fit a role in which they are an accessory – something that adds to genuine story times between parents and their children. I would have been so full of guilt if I had abdicated my responsibility as a father by pushing my children to these cassettes rather than reading to them myself! Worse, if I had so abdicated, I would have been deprived of very special times. So, my message is, and always will be, that there’s no substitute for parents reading to their children, whenever it is humanly possible!
There’s one final thing I’d like to say about KidLit. I have, in the past, overheard parents in bookshops who, while browsing impatiently through a plethora of books for kids, that they must find the award winning books! Why? Surely, they should be looking for books that they know their child/children will like? An award winning book on ‘good dental health – essential – educational’ may be a critically acclaimed volume, backed by every possible authority, but it may well not interest children as much as the adventures of a worn out old tractor or a rather less than clever dog! Personally, I’d rather keep children eager to read than simply ‘well read’ and ‘well informed’.