Today is World Book Day – time to celebrate books and reading and the joy they bring.
I’m sure to many parents this is just another groan in the school calendar – another costume to create, or dig out an old one and tenuously link it to a book. I’m not there yet – Ted’s not even at nursery yet, so no costume needed (though you just know I’d turn him into a teeny tiny Teddy Lupin, multicoloured hair and all). But if it ever stops snowing, I’m taking him to World Book Day events at our local library and bookshop anyway.
That’s a point: there’s bound to be plenty of parents out there who have constructed painstakingly detailed costumes only to be faced with a snow day. Does this mean we can have another World Book Day to celebrate their efforts? I’m up for it.
It’s so important to instill a love of reading. So, so important. To just hit the tip of the iceberg of benefits, it makes you live longer.
(graphic from the National Literacy Trust)
If there’s one thing I hate to hear, it’s “books are boring”. See also: “I’d rather watch the film”. Ugh. It makes me cringe and rage in equal measure.
Simply put, books have shaped my life, and have played a huge part in defining who I am today.
My mum and I used to watch Big Brother, years ago. We both agreed we could never, ever go in that house. Not for the intrusive cameras, the mind-numbingly irritating people, or any of the rest – because there aren’t any books. I went on holiday right after a bomb scare when I was about fifteen, and there were rumours that hand luggage would be restricted to just purse-sized: I seriously looked into printing an entire book onto a couple of pieces of A4 and investing in a magnifying glass, because I couldn’t imagine going a whole three hour flight without a book. When I used to walk home from school as a teenager, I must have had a near-death experience every week, because I used to walk the whole way home with my nose in a book.
My absolute favourite place in the world is the flagship Waterstones in London. I could genuinely move in there. Coffee shop at the bottom, bar at the top, books in the middle. What more could I want?
Books give you whole worlds that you can clutch in your hands, lighting sparks in your head that you didn’t know were there. An escape from reality. People, places and things that you’d never otherwise encounter. You could travel to the other side of the universe, or deep within a stranger’s head, all while you sit on the bus to work. With the help of beautifully crafted words, your brain can concoct fantasies that no screen can come close to perfecting.
If there’s one thing I’d love for Ted to grow into, it’s a great reader. I want him to share my love of books, I want him to get that rush when he walks into Waterstones and takes a deep breath in (the only smell I’ve ever loved more than that of new books, was the smell of my newborn’s head – pretty sure it’s a similar olfactory concept).
So far, well, we’re not quite there. I think we’re getting there… in a way.
Ted loves books.
As in, Ted loves the physical concept of books. He will sit on the sofa and leaf through one of my books, gently flipping the pages backwards and forwards. He will stare at pictures in his own books for ages. It’s like there’s something in his DNA that’s drawing him towards books… the actual books that he can hold in his hands.
He’s got a couple of favourites – the classic Dear Zoo being the only story for which he will sit still until the very end. He loves a good animal noise, does Ted. Anything with lift-the-flaps is a good bet, really. No matter how many times he’s heard the story, he always laughs in surprise when he flips open a new picture.
But he’s not got that love of stories yet. That, we have to work on. When I read to him, he tends to get bored after a couple of pages, slide off my lap and potter round the room. I carry on reading anyway – I hope that just listening to my voice, to the different cadence as I read aloud, will permeate into his brain and light that spark. And I hold a lot of hope when he pulls his books down and stares at the pictures – I like to think that he’s piecing together his own stories in his little head.
That’s why World Book Day is such a fantastic concept. Thousands of book vouchers are being out in schools, preschools and libraries across the country, to either knock £1 off the price of any children’s book, or to exchange for one of the collection of books written especially for the event. I will definitely be taking Ted along to Waterstones to pick him out a book to celebrate the occasion – the more books we read together, the more likely he’s going to start loving books for their fabulous stories, not just for the fun way they feel in his hands.
I will make a Harry Potter nerd out of him yet!