My mother introduced me to the joy of reading when I was just a kiddie. I would sit on her cosy lap at night-time and she would read to me. I loved this. She always had a book to read for her own enjoyment too, and she would escape the demands of her five children, by either lying on her bed or on the couch in the afternoon with her current book.
I recall my first visit to the library with her when I was six years old. The library had high ceilings, shelves loaded with books, a certain comforting smell of old print and a whispering silence. I was awed. Mum took me to the childrens’ section and told me I could choose a book for myself. Oh, wow! My own book – ‘but just to borrow’, she said. I chose ‘Barbar, The Elephant’ and I happily clasped it to my chest. My first book from a library – ever. I adored the book and fell in love with Barbar. I sobbed when his mother was shot by a cruel hunter. How could that happen?
Narnie, my grandmother gave her grandkids books for Christmas and birthdays. Personally, I think these are precious gifts for children. Narnie gave me the ‘Rupert, The Bear’ books, plus ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’. I found the latter two books rather strange and disturbing, but Rupert the Bear was a real hit.
On my 12th birthday a neighbourhood friend gave me a book of Oscar Wilde stories (bought by her father). These stories included ‘The Selfish Giant’ (I cried), ‘The Happy Prince’ (I cried again), and ‘The Remarkable Rocket’ (I thought the rocket was a pompous fool and didn’t cry).
I loved fairy tales and read all of Hans Anderson, plus the tales from the Grimm brothers. I cried when I read ‘The Little Matchgirl’. (You can see I was bit of a sop). I read the Maori legends and legends from Ireland, Russia, England, Scotland and Hungary.
Second-hand comics or those belonging to neighbours or cousins were popular. At Christmas I was given ‘Annuals’ by mum and dad including the ‘Princess’ Annuals and Readers’ Digest Annuals for children. I read ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ by Enid Blyton and all her Famous Five books with their marvellous adventures, ‘lashings of cream’ at picnics and good old Timmy, the dog.
I read The Famous Five until I was thirteen, probably way past the targeted age for those books and then I picked up ‘Owls Do Cry’. My eyes fell out of my head at the intensity of this incredible book. My childhood reading ended with ‘Owls Do Cry’ and I moved onto adult books.
Books are still popular with children today and this generation has a great selection by wonderful authors. With Christmas coming up, books make a great gift from grandparents. When young kiddies today move into their senior years as I have done, I hope they too will remember the treasures of their childhood reading.