World of your imagination – where has our love of reading gone?

I love books. 

Absolutely, utterly, completely adore them.  I could quite happily spend every waking minute devouring stories; flicking through pages, inhaling that new (or old!) book smell.  It never fails to thrill me that inside every cover exists another world: Worlds of adventure, mystifying magical lands, heart-wrenching tales and bellies full of laughter.

When I was pregnant, I used to read children’s stories to the bump.  I’d sing nursery rhymes, poems and create my own tales hoping to somehow instill this love of reading and stories into my unborn child.  If a fetus recognises its mother’s voice, then who is to say it can’t develop a love of literature too? That was my outward reasoning anyway although I suspect it had more to do with the fact that it gave me a perfect excuse to read some old childhood favourites!

We read to Jasper from the moment he was born – I used to breastfeed whilst reading aloud Christopher Robin’s adventures in the 100 acre wood.  He had a few bedtime stories that we’d read over and over again and other stories that we would dip in and out of.  He’d squeal with delight when animals would hide in forests, children would run and hide under beds and various creatures began their eipc adventures in the big, wide world.

We borrow books from the library regularly.  Jasper now rushes in desperate to find what’s hiding inside the shelves, searching for whatever he wants to read about that day.  My amazon basket is always full of books I think he’d like to share together and now, those he may be able to just start to read himself.  My favourite way to buy books though, is in a bookshop.  I know they’re cheaper online and I know we need to keep our libraries open and in order to do that, we need to visit them.  We complain they’re not stocked with the latest releases, that half the pages are missing and if you can manage to find what you want, it’s usually already on loan and you have to wait 6 weeks for the last borrower to return it.

Oh, but there’s something about a bookshop.  Sliding your fingers across the spines of freshly printed books, the rush you feel when you find a book by your favourite author that you have somehow managed to miss.  The excitement  when you notice that all paperbacks are on ‘buy one get one half price’ – you feel perfectly justified in spending money you don’t have on books you don’t technically *need* and end up buying bags full.  I don’t mean to sound frivolous, I’m not in any other way but with books, I just can’t help myself.  They’re like the purest form of escapism, new friends you care desperately about and can’t stop thinking about, long after you’ve closed the book at its final page.  Sometimes you even forget that the characters are just that. Characters.

I’m almost certain – I hope I’m certain, that my love of reading has been passed on to Jasper.  It’s the best gift I feel I could have given him.  He dances a jig when he is given a new book, he stares longingly at the pictures of other covers in the back of books he already has, wondering what joys he may find within their pages and begs to hear stories over and over again.

When we’re waiting for an appointment and other children around us are playing on their mother’s phones, Jasper will ask me to make up stories for him and sometimes I’ll ask him to make them up for me.  He’s three so of course has had very little (if any!) formal teaching yet he uses such descriptive vocabulary, he draws his listeners in – he gives voices to his characters, he uses adjectives and imagery.  Have I taught him this? Of course not.  Books have.

He sees us reading all the time because we genuinely love it.  Our house is full of books, they’re everywhere.  I have bought a kindle (as a space saver!) but I’ll never stop buying books.  Each one like a little treasure.

What saddens me though, and I mean deeply not merely in passing, is that something seems to have happened to our love of reading.  I teach primary school and we’re constantly bombarded with new initiatives to try to persuade children to read – let them watch the film, I hear; give them stories full of action; let them read comics; read an email or even a text.  I’m not suggesting for a second that everyone finds the physical act of reading easy (and hence perhaps not enjoyable) but a good story is magical.  No one can dispute that.

At home, we act out stories – we go into the woods on a bear hunt – perhaps red riding hood will be behind a tree or we’ll find the Gruffalo trudging along with a mouse.  We read Alan Ahlberg’s classic ‘The Ghost Train’ in honour of Halloween week and decided to go on a steam train to make up our own version.  Everywhere you go is the setting for a story, every incident the start of a wild adventure.  But so many of us would rather watch a film or play a computer game.

Recently, I was listening to John Suchet on classic fm.  He was talking about a performance of one of Haydn’s symphonies and how the interpretation had involved almost slapstick comedy while the orchestra played.  Before playing the symphony on air, he said he wasn’t able to fully describe the performance and that the listener would instead need to use their imagination as they listened. “Radio,” he said, “is better than television because the pictures are in your own imagination.”  He didn’t say this exactly (my memory fails me!), but that was the gist.  And isn’t it just the same with books?

So where has our love of reading gone?  Isn’t it about time it came back?




11 responses to “World of your imagination – where has our love of reading gone?

  1. I think sadly technology has had something to do with it. Some children are not taught that there’s an alternative to ipods etc. As a family we love reading. Couldn’t imagine life without it. Definitely time for its comeback.

    • I couldn’t agree more. I think technology certainly has it’s place – it has helped us to make so many advances but what we need to remember is that it is just a tool and unfortunately the way we use it is sometimes as detrimental as it is beneficial. It’s so easy for people to use technology as a babysitter; in today’s busy world, people often don’t have (or claim not to have) time to spend with their children and reading is one of the things which suffers when there are so many apps and games available instead. I think also that there are more and more adults who don’t read themselves and people just don’t see it as a priority. It’s such a shame. Bring back reading!

  2. See I would love to know! I don’t remember my mum ever reading to us but me and my brother have always been huge fans of reading and always find ourselves discussing books we’ve read lately and our much younger sister has also turned into a book worm like us. I think to us reading was escapism, a way we could find real adventure. My eldest is almost three and she loves books she has a massive collection and I read to her every night before bed she won’t sleep without it and has always been that way. My son is one and not interested in the slightest if I try and read to him he grabs the book and walks away I’m curious to see if that will change as he gets older. I think it is such a shame so many children don’t enjoy reading or even listening to stories!

    Returning the love from the magnificent Monday blog hop. Thanks for visiting my blog. I look forward to reading more of yours!
    (Mummy and the chunks)

    • Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to read my post. It is such a shame and unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any signs of this changing even with all the fabulous children’s books and stories out there. I too find reading to be a form of escapism, there’s nothing I like better than to fall into a new story or pick up an old favourite. It will be interesting to see if your son’s thoughts about books change as he gets older. With so many story lovers around him, I would think it would!
      Looking forward to reading more of your posts soon.
      Thanks again

  3. I don’t know if we have lost our love of books, my daughter used to read at the dinner table, as she walked down the street (quite dangerous!) and used to prop her book behind the taps as she brushed her teeth so she could carry on reading!
    I love to read & love books. I’m trying to get on board with the kindle idea. I can see the benefits on holiday but really it doesn’t feel like a book, doesn’t smell like a book!
    The best thing I ever did was read to my kids, they love it, I loved it and our best experience of all was reading Harry Potter, I know some people don’t think they are well written but we LOVED them, they would get ready for bed early so we would have time for 2 chapters. It was a few years ago, we had to have a pause and wait for the last book to come out and by that point they were all old enough to read them themselves, but reading together and out loud was such a special experience.
    My youngest wasn’t such a reader as the others but he loved cartoon books, Captain underpants and Star wars so we just went with that (reading is reading), now he loves a “proper” book.
    On the “acting out the story” idea, do you know Owl Babies? Mine used to love being a character each and getting ready to say their line at the right place (when they were very young of course, not as teenagers!)
    Sorry to ramble on so much, I love reading!

    • Hi there, thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to comment. Your story about your daughter did make me laugh; I was the same as a child, never without my nose stuck in a book. I haven’t changed much as an adult really! I don’t know Owl Babies – I really like the sound of each of the children being a character and saying the line at the right place. I will look into it. I also loved Harry Potter; for children, I think that sometimes it doesn’t matter whether a book is well written in a literary sense (as long as they are also reading some which are of course!) as long as the books are loved and enjoyed. I agree with you completely that reading and sharing books together as a family is such a special experience. Thanks again

  4. Pingback: Making Books with Young Children: Every Picture Tells a Story | happinessinlearning

  5. Wonderful post! I feel like I’m the last person on earth without a Kindle. I love the feel of a REAL book, especially library books. The idea that someone else has enjoyed those pages is so meaningful to me. Thanks for devoting time to this issue–I think it’s really important.

    • Thanks so much for popping in and reading the post; I’m so glad you enjoyed it. There really is something special about a book, a real book and I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thinks this is an important issue. Thanks again- Katie

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