For as long as I can remember, books and stories have been part of my life. There is a fabulous photo in the family album of me as a very young child, sitting on my mum’s lap as she read to me. Every night, my mum or dad would read me and my sisters a bedtime story – The Little Red Hen was my personal favourite and my parents were probably sick to the back teeth of her, but they knew how important it was to instil that love of books in me and my siblings.
As I grew up, this love of stories extended into writing them myself. If I was bored during the school holidays, my mum would often suggest story titles for me to write – to this day, it is a standing family joke that my sisters and I can run you up a story about ‘a day in the life of a 50 pence piece’ at a moment’s notice. It was fun, it developed our imaginations and it led to an instinctive feel for words and story structures – and I’m sure the peace and quiet was a big plus for my mum too, with 3 young daughters to entertain!
I’m now a trustee for a literacy charity, ABC to read – we train volunteers to go into schools and support children who are struggling to read to develop their skills. There are many reasons that these children need our help – there may be no books at home, they may have English as a second or third language, some are just shy and unconfident in class. Whatever the reason, I believe that each and every one of them deserves to develop literacy skills that will be there for them throughout their lives and open up a whole world of opportunities and possibilities that they might otherwise miss out on.
One of the key things that our volunteers do is find out what the child is interested in and use that as a way to introduce reading and comprehension skills to them. If they love football, for example, understanding that reading skills will enable them to follow their team’s results or read up on their star players can be a huge step forward. They also play lots of games together – providing ways to introduce new words to them and the chance to read instructions or rules.
One of our fieldworkers will be speaking on local radio about the importance of books, to coincide with celebrations around the centenary of Ladybird books. Those of us who grew up with books will have many happy memories of that series – what’s yours?
Until next time