The day that we were driving to meet our new nephew - who hadn't been born by this point and amusingly/coincidentally turned out to be called Charlie - we were listening to Charlie & The Chocolate Factory in the car. (Quick note to all parents/future parents: Story CD's are the Universe's gift to you for peaceful car journeys. Get ones that you'll enjoy too and everyone is happy! Our kids love going on long car journeys now and the Roald Dahl CD case is the latest addition to our collection. It's Phizz-Whizzing!)
Here is a poem the Oompa-Loompas recite that made us all laugh. The girls were really excited to recognise the characters mentioned and it was a great affirming message to them of why they have so many books and only get to watch TV at weekends for movie time. I thought it would be appropriate to share on International Literacy Day:
“The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set --
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink --
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK -- HE ONLY SEES!
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY ... USED ... TO ... READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start -- oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.”
- Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
This iconic children's book has been voted by both teachers and parents as the number one book that all children should read before leaving primary school - not bad for a book that is over 50 years old now! Our 6 year old eager reader finished it in two weeks recently and is now onto Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Believe me, there is such joy to be had in watching a child sitting quietly, reading a book and chuckling to herself.
Books are truly marvellous and wonderful gifts to give your children. They fuel their imagination and set them up for a lifetime of adventure, discovery, learning and independent entertainment. Reading aloud to your children, discovering characters and exploring new places with them through stories is such a precious good use of your time and they will always love you for it. It is never too early (or too late) to start! Whether you are reading simple stories to babies and lifting the flaps on sturdy board books that they can then sit on the floor and play with (or chew), or spending hours reading picture books to eager young children, searching for things within the pictures and encouraging early recognition of words, or enjoying working through longer books with slightly older children one or two chapters at a time before bed... These are all great ways to encourage a lifelong joy of reading and learning whilst also making you a better parent.
So visit your local library, go to the bookstore, check out book fairs and second hand book shops, take recommendations from fellow parents and choose to gift children great books instead of toys. There are thousands of books out there just waiting to be explored and discovered! You will find that some are outstanding, some are forgettable and some are truly dreadful but until you start you'll never know...
As for filling your home with books, I know we live in a digital world now where everything is available on our various devices, but I still believe that nothing transforms a house into a home quite like bookshelves lovingly stacked with treasured books. I'll post some ideas soon to inspire you!
Love Holly x