It seems fitting to me that the last post from this blog as The Cat’s Rrar should come from one of my oldest book club kids. She’s 17 now and I’ve watched her blossom as a reader and a writer, with a compassion, empathy and self-awareness worthy of a fully-fledged counsellor. I am very proud to know this young lady. Enjoy.
Despite being a digital age child, born to be immersed in a society fixated by the wonders of technology, much of my childhood was actually spent chasing after the Famous Five on some adventure or other or discovering a lonely girl who escaped the neglect of her family through her love of reading and ability to levitate objects. Matilda was in fact the first book I read by myself without the assistance of my parents or dictation from my teachers and it opened my eyes to the possibilities of reading and the thrill of doing it alone.
But where do I think this love of literature has come from? Well I believe much of it has to do with sitting down a long time ago with Mummy or Daddy and having them plant the seed of imagination in my mind through the lives of characters that did astonishing things. Through as little as ten minutes an evening they nurtured and cared for this seed of imagination as it grew roots and shoots. Spending time with parents early in life has many benefits for a child, but introducing them to books is a gift that translates into uncountable facets of their later life. For me I eventually I hungered for more than what my teachers instructed me to read and my parents chose. I sought for independence in my reading thus setting off on a lifelong journey of discovery.
But even the most skilled of literary navigators sometimes needs direction in what to read – how else would readers be able to broaden the diversity of their reading? This was where my fairy-book-mother and fellow merry band of bookworms came in. A bookclub without boundaries is perhaps the greatest weapon for a reader to have in their arsenal. It is a haven to which one can go to seek a recommendation about a book you would have never otherwise read. But more spectacularly it provides you with an opportunity to share your own findings about books you just couldn’t put down. I myself have attended the same bookclub for around 4 ½ years and intend to continue faithfully for as long as there are novels to read and young people to inspire! Through gentle nudges and wonderful reviews, a bookclub can resuscitate and begin a lifetime of discovery in readers of any age, particularly if you find the right fairy-book-mother!
I believe my relationship with books (although sometimes verging on the obsessive) is a precious and blessed one. I understand that not all parents believe they have the time to settle down with their children and read, yet really ten minutes is not long when putting everything into perspective. For the six years my parents sat with me when I was a child I have had eleven years of autonomous, wondrous reading. From this gift I have even found my passions extreme enough to want to write books of my own, to share stories that I hope to encourage children my age to read one day. My imagination with the aid of words has taken me to places no plane, price tag or Hollywood film ever could and I truly believe that has come from my parents introducing me to reading and a vivid imagination.
These days kids often enough say “I don’t need to read the book, I’ll just watch the movie” and seek to invest their time in the fictitious world of video games and gossiping on social network sites and that’s ok – in moderation. But what these all lack is the use of the imagination. In films the director decides how a scene is to be interpreted from screenplay to screen, in video games the programmer decrees what the world will look like and in social media sites we are merely venting off about our lives to other people and using pictures to tell our stories. What I believe makes reading so fun is the element of imagination that seems to be quashed by these newly influential and visual aspects of our everyday lives.
Of course it takes time for a child to develop the skills to actually read and piece together what a text is actually saying and that does take time and an encouraging push. But it is the pictures that bloom from an active imagination that, for me, make reading pleasurable. The ability to conjure images from simple black and white words on a page is what makes reading so remarkable and pleasurable and is the reason I have never stopped.
In this digital age where almost every child is armed with a laptop, phone and gaming console we scream that children should be stimulated to read more and while I agree with this I think emphasis needs placed on enjoying books that enhance the imagination, not simply books that will “get them reading”. Let kids read what they want to read, what interests them! For once a child has engaged their imagination the world opens up a thousand possibilities, ones that can be discovered in endless novels. My imagination began to thrive from being read to from an early age, developed through the encouragement of fellow book readers and challenged by my own desire to read more and more.
Therefore we need to ignite the spark of reading in children through books that take us far off into our imaginations. We shouldn’t dictate what they need to be reading but allow them to form an opinion and discover what is being offered. Allow the imagination to flourish and run wild and before you know it parents will be complaining about needing to buy bookshelves in order to recover a little floor space.
Bekah, aged 17
You’ll find us over the next few weeks migrating over to Cat Among The Pages: http://catamongthepages.wordpress.com/
See you soon!