This is my adventure to stock my personal bookshelf at school with books that will help all of the children find ‘that book’, you know, the one that you read as a child that made you go all starry eyed, you were desperate to read, and you were devastated when you finished it because it was over.
The one that helped you understand what the adults were going on about when they said bizarre things like, “Books can take you anywhere,” and you thought to yourself, “Don’t be daft, that’s what cars, trains, planes and boats are for.”
The one that got you hooked on books.
For me, it was The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton. Mum would read a chapter at bedtime each night before she went to work. Once she’d gone, I’d get the book and my torch, creep down under my blankets and re-read it over and over. I never read on, as I wanted to discover the next adventure with Mum. It was magical. We were on this great adventure together every night. By day, my brother and I would go searching for the biggest tree we could find in the woods near our home with a bag of toffee, just in case we found Moonface.
That book took me up a majestic tree to magical lands, and started my reading adventure. It proved that I could escape to anywhere just by turning a page. To me, that is a powerful, everyday magic that every child should experience.
Books became my comfort blanket. I had a lot of operations as a child. That was when parents didn’t stay on Children’s Ward overnight. They kissed you goodbye, promising to be back the next day, and left you under the watchful gaze of the Ward Sister, or Darth Vader’s twin, only she carried a thermometer instead of a light sabre. It was just as menacing though.
I can remember one night feeling desperately lonely after lights out. I could hear the little girl at the opposite end of the ward crying. I climbed out of bed, put on my dressing gown, picked up my book, sat next to her and started reading. She stopped crying and asked me to sit on the bed so she could see the words too.
Three chapters in, the Ward Sister came to see why a bed side light was on, and why she could hear giggling. We were terrified. We’d been caught! The Ward Sister put her hand out for the book. I dutifully handed it over, and went to go back to my own bed. I was told to stay where I was. Then, she sat down and read to us. It was Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl.
That book provided us both comfort, a friend and tamed the Ward Sister for the two chapters she read to us, if not permanently. That showed me the power books have to make life and the people around you better, to comfort, to stop loneliness, to empathise. Now that is something we should be teaching our children.
Books are so much more than something a child needs to take home and stare at for 10 minutes every night. They are a portal to new places, new experiences and new friends. They should create passion, enthusiasm and memories for the reader.
So, that’s what this adventure is all about. Helping the children I work with find the book that will hook them as book lovers for life. Fingers crossed!