Why I still read children’s books

I could keep this really short and say: “I still read children’s books because they’re good.”

That doesn’t make for a very long blog post though and is much too simplistic.

I am a great believer that children’s books are not just for children.

Ok, they are an ideal introduction to fiction (or fact) for young humans just learning to read but there’s much more to them than that.

Good children’s fiction is simply good fiction. Does it matter how old you are when you read it? Just look at master storytellers like CS Lewis, Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling and add in their more modern counterparts like Roald Dahl and Michael Morpurgo amongst many others. I am as engrossed in their stories at the ripe old age of 57 as I was when I was seven.

These authors know how to spin a yarn. They also do not shy away from issues that might be deemed ‘unsuitable’ for kids like death and war. Kids aren’t stupid, good authors know that and don’t avoid the nasty bits. Ok, you probably wouldn’t feed a juvenile a hack and slash crime novel but there are many authors who tackle the more sensitive subjects in children’s books.

Every home should have a copy of Winnie the Pooh in it, Roald Dahl’s Matilda teaches girl power and that it’s more than fine to be intelligent, Elizabeth Beresford’s Wombles carry a green message issued way before it was popular and essential and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series is social history.

I read Hugh Lofting’s The Story of Doctor Dolittle today. Did you know it was a product of the First World War? During that war Lofting was a Lieutenant in the Irish Guards and wrote illustrated letters to his children as a means of escapism. He noticed the huge role animals played in the war effort and created a quirky doctor from the West Country who liked animals more than people. These letters home formed the basis for The Story of Doctor Dolittle which was published in1920. 102 years later I enjoyed reading it just as much as I imagine children in 1920 did.

The problem with many adults is they lose the best bits of being a child as they get older; the wonder of a really good tree, the endless possibilities of a muddy puddle, the pirate ship clouds floating in the sky about to go into battle. Keep hold of your inner child. Let it out occasionally to play.

Then there’s the nostalgia. I had a brilliant collection of books as a child and I loved them all. As a teenager I threw most of them away as being ‘babyish’. When I had children, I bought many of them again. I read my kids Milly Molly Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley, which was published in the 1920s, alongside Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear and Roald Dahl’s The BFG. And then somehow, through repeated house moves and the need to trundle fewer boxes from new home to new home, I lost them again.

Now I am buying back my childhood favourites whenever I can find them. I can’t remember how many Michael Morpurgo books I’ve read this year. He is the consummate storyteller and his tales are beautiful. I was joyous when I discovered a copy of The Family from One End Street and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase in separate charity shops. And I know when I read them I will be transported into my childhood.

And once in a while, you find one with a picture of The Ginger Ninja on the front. Only an eye tells them apart.

Go on, go play with seven-year-old you for a while and read a book from your childhood. You’ll love it.

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