In honour of International Children’s Book Day on the 2nd April, I thought I’d pay tribute to some of the books that helped shape my childhood. I was a big reader as a young girl, and would absolutely devour any book I could get my hands on, regardless of how appropriate they may have been!
Even now as an adult, I still try to read as many books as I can, whether it’s a couple of chapters on the train or a whole suitcase on holiday, I try to make time to read whenever I can. And I can say I’ve been encouraging my son to read whenever we can. Granted, he’s one, but I always have children’s books in his toy box, and try and read to him on a regular basis. It is important to encourage him to develop his own love of reading, either independently or as something we do together.
And as a teacher now I see how reading benefits children greatly, and it saddens me when the pupils I teach tell me they don’t enjoy reading as much as they could do. I try to inspire a love of reading in my classroom by always making it known what books I enjoy and what books I am currently reading, and it gives me great pleasure when I can have this dialogue with students who have that similar passion, especially about childhood favourites that have made their mark…
Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers series and The Five Find-Outer Series – These were some of the first books I remember reading independently! I was in Year 3 (aged around 6/7) when my Mom gave me her copies of these series, that she brought when she was a child. And I completely fell in love with them! I’ve read them so many times through the years that her copies completely fell apart and I ended up repurchasing them!
The Mallory Tower series follow Darrel Rivers, a young girl who goes off to Boarding School, and follows the trials and errors of her and her friends through their School Years. I loved this series, and even remember asking my Mom if she’d send me to the school, only to be greatly disappointed when I learned it wasn’t real. As it was set in Cornwall – the backdrop to many a family holiday growing up – I loved the idea of going to school by the coast, and getting up to mischief with friends!
The Five Find-Outer series was my absolute favourite! It was based around a group of 5 children of varying ages – and Buster, the dog – as they attempted to solve mysteries during their School holidays before the local town policeman, Mr.Goon. This series made me laugh so much; it was the first time I’d read anything similar to this, and opened a whole new genre of books to me. I loved the characters and their lives, brought to life by Blyton’s wonderful way with words, and even now as an adult I still think fondly upon the characters whom I grew up with.
Reading these as an adult now, they are dated in terms of the ideas and language used, but I will always cherish these series, and will love to share them with my Son when he comes of age.
Matilda, by Roald Dahl – Again, this is another book that I read as a young girl in Primary School, and probably my first encounter with Dahl’s weird and wonderful imagination. I always loved Matilda best of all, as I too was a bookworm and it made it seem cool and normal to share this passion with someone like her.
To me, Matilda is Roald Dahl at his best. Whilst I enjoy – even love – some of his earlier offerings, this one remains my all time favourite. I love the fact that someone with such horrible parents can be so kind and generous, and show such compassion to everyone she meets. I love the fact she makes it normal to be inquisitive and smart, and her thirst for knowledge is admirable. And I especially love the fact that she endures all this cruelty and loneliness in order to teach the adults in her life a powerful lesson we all should learn.
The Goosebumps Collection, by R.L.Stine – These books were probably some of the most popular books in my Primary School, around the time I was in Year 4 and 5. Everyone was reading them! I remember them costing £3.99 each, and each week when I received my pocket money I’d buy a new one to add to my collection. I now have every single one sitting in my loft, ready for my Son to have.
My favourites were probably Night of the Living Dummy, Say Cheese and Die, or One Day in Horror Land, and I read these countless times. I loved that they were slightly creepy, not enough to give me nightmares, but just enough to make me jump. They were my first taste at children’s ‘Stephen King-esque’ books, and I loved them.
The Harry Potter Collection, by JK Rowling – These are the only books that feature throughout my adulthood as much as they featured throughout my childhood. I was 11 when I read the first book, and I fell completely head over heels with the entire world. I was in Year 7 at Secondary School, and my teacher made the whole class read it as part of a scheme of work. And that was it.
I’ve read these books so many times, I could read them from memory now. I always turn to them when I’m happy, sad, upset, and I know they’ll just take me away from whatever trouble for a few hours, and make me feel instantly better. The magic and wonder I felt as an 11 year old has been magnified over the years, and it remains the only children’s book that has transcended through my life, and become more important to me the older I get.
I listen to the audio books in the car, I have them in hard copy originals that I queued up at midnight to get, and now my Husband has been buying me the illustrated hard back books that are released each year. It is a world that has completely captivated my life, and I thank JK Rowling from the bottom of my heart for this rich world she created. I identified with all of the characters at different stages of my life, and have grown up as they did all those years ago.
One thing that I particularly love about this series is that the Wizarding World didn’t end when the series did; it’s gone on and flourished in the eyes of its fans – theories, fan fiction, Pottermore… I learn more and more about this World as the years go by, and I’m just as captivated now as I was as an 11 year old. With the recent additions of The Cursed Child (wasn’t massively keen) and Fantastic Beasts (which I loved), this world continues to grow and flourish, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
And those remain my pick of my favourite childhood books. Obviously, there are a ton of others I could talk about, but i’ll save those for another post!
Let me know in the comments which books had a big impact upon your childhood!