In the past, when people asked me, ‘what book or writer was it that started your love of reading?’ or what book had the strongest influence on your reading? I always referred to books from when I was able to read alone without the help of my parents or a teacher. These were the books that I read before going to bed every night and always turned the light back on to carry on reading when my parents had gone to sleep. My list could go on and on, but here’s to name a few: Stig of the Dump, James and the Giant Peach, Harry Potter, Darren Shan, Molly Moon’s Incredible book of Hypnotism and the Railway Children. I always say that these were the books that got me into reading. They were the first books I could read by myself and therefore the books that were read to me years before this, I don’t necessarily consider as having an influence on my love of reading.
I’ve realised though, that the books that were read to me when I was younger from the age of about 3 to 5 years old, they had just as strong an impact on my reading growing up, just as much as the books I mentioned above did. I strongly believe that the books we introduce to our children when they’re as young as this is extremely important. Just because they contain pictures and fewer words, why should that mean that they aren’t as important?
I’ve created a list of my top five favourite books from my early years. The books that I can pick up today and still enjoy reading, those whose illustrations I remember vividly in my mind and the rhymes that I can still say out loud from memory 20 years on. These books opened up my imagination at such a young age and introduced me to the excitement and wonder that reading had to offer.
1- The Owl and the Pussy Cat went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat…. Originally a poem written by Edward Lear and first published in 1871, this charming story tells the tale of an owl and a pussycat setting off on a journey together to a land ‘where the Bong-tree grows,’ where they buy a ring for a shilling and are married by a turkey, before dancing hand in hand in the moonlight.
2- Winnie the Witch by Valerie Thomas, is a series of books about the adventures of a witch called Winnie and her black cat Wilbur. The first book was always my favourite. Winnie is not only a kind witch but also a clumsy one. She lives in a black house with black furniture and because Wilbur is black too she can never find him! With stunning illustrations by Korky Paul, the fun was always trying to spot Wilbur before Winnie either sat on him or tripped over him etc.
3 - Mog the Forgetful Cat by hugely successful writer Judith Kerr, best known for her book ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea,’ tells the story of Mog, yes you guessed it, a forgetful cat that’s always getting into trouble! You couldn’t help but feel sorry for this little feline lass!
4 - We’re going on a Bear Hunt by genius children’s writer Michael Rosen, follows one family’s excitement as they trudge through grass, splash through the river and wade through mud to find a bear! Little do they know that a big surprise awaits them in a cave on the other side of the dark forest! Half the fun of this lyrical and repetitive text is reading it aloud which I always did.
5 - And last but not least we have ‘Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy’! This book was first introduced to me at school. It follows the adventures of small dog Hairy Maclary, with his other canine friends, all of different breeds, in their local neighbourhood, usually going up against the feisty felines who are always pitched as being more cunning.