Friday, July 20, 2012

Finding the five-year-old me

I am doing a workshop in Canberra in a few weeks’ time on finding your inner child and writing from deep within a child’s point of view. In preparation for this, I have been spending my morning train writing time going for a bit of a wander down memory lane, trying to reacquaint myself with my inner five-year-old.

Memory is a strange beast. I don’t think I have a particularly good long-term memory and the events and feelings I am recalling of my former and very much younger self are really just tiny snippets – snapshots, but with only part of the picture in sharp focus and the rest kind of bleary. And it’s the bleary bits that I have been trying to tap into and bring into sharper focus. Often without much success. And when I have remembered something more fully, it is hard to ascertain how much is actual real memory and how much of it is my own invention. It’s been an interesting exercise.

I did recall an early childhood “friend” and event that I had totally forgotten about though. Her name was Jennifer (last name unknown) and these are the things I remember:
  • She was related to someone famous – perhaps Bobby Limb (can’t be certain) and the five-year-old me found this amazingly exciting. I was in awe of her because of it – even slightly jealous.
  • She was pretty and tidy and frilly and I aspired to be like her. I thought she was a much, much better person than me. She fascinated me.
  • I was invited to her birthday party at her house. I felt that it was a great honour to be invited. I was excited and nervous about going.
  • Her house was white and large. Two storeys – which to me meant that she was also very, very rich. Inside there was a wide sweeping staircase that I longed to climb, but wasn’t brave enough.
  • In her backyard there was a wooden cubbyhouse fitted out with play stoves and tables and shelves and couches. Another sign of wealth. There was a swing hanging from a tree and the grass was the softest and greenest grass I had ever felt or seen.
  • I recall Jennifer in a white frilly dress swinging wildly on the swing, her long blond curls streaming out behind her.
  • I felt that she was out of reach for me. And that I was just lucky to have been invited to her party.

Interestingly, there are lots of things about the party that I can’t remember – things you would think would have been important to the five-year-old me, such as: any other children or people, party food, presents, balloons and party games. Not sure what this means, but I find it intriguing.

I came across an article on a similar topic the other day by Alane Ferguson about channelling your inner teenager that is worth a read. I have much stronger memories of my teenage years. Perhaps that is why I have been attracted to writing novels for young adults of late.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

On the laps of their parents

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." Emilie Buchwald

I love this quote! (I know, I am a little “quote” crazy at the moment - forgive me.) But doesn’t it say it all? 

Last blog post touched on the importance and worth of reading, and the joy of becoming a lifelong reader, but how do we get our kids on that path?

Reading to your child from an early age is most definitely the first step.

It is one of the most wonderful ways to develop positive attitudes to reading. And I believe there is no better way for a child to discover the magic and power of story, to engage their imaginations and for reading to be associated with feelings of warmth, nurturing, security and love than, as Emilie so eloquently put it, "on the laps of their parents".

In the National Year of Reading, let’s have three cheers for the parents out there who are laying this important foundation, so their children have the best chance of becoming lifelong readers – so they too can say one day: I love2read.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

For the love of books

I am a wordy. There is no doubt about it. I love writing. Reading. Words. Story. Books.

Lately, I have taken to collecting those catchy sayings and sentiments that often appear on Facebook declaring a similar love of books.

Things like:

"I love walking into a bookstore. It's like all my friends are sitting on shelves, waving their pages at me." Tahareh Mafi

"Sometimes when I'm alone I like to sniff books." Source unknown

"Bookworms will rule the world - as soon as we finish one more chapter..."

"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers." Charles William Eliot (My personal fave.)

I have a stack more! I don't know why I have started collecting these - they sing to me somehow, warm my heart and reassure me that there are others who share my love of the written word and my belief in the power of story. 

When I was a Primary School Teacher, I always endeavoured not only to teach my students how to read, but also to guide them in taking their first steps on the path of becoming lifelong readers. 

Research and experience have told us that reading has many benefits, that it is important. Reading improves vocabulary, concentration, focus and memory. It develops active mental processes, and helps children to become engaged learners. It stimulates the imagination and reduces stress. It provdes a wonderful escape.

But wait! There's more.

Most importantly, reading allows us to explore what it means to be human. It allows us to walk in someone else's shoes for a while, to view the world through someone else's eyes. To experience what it is like to be courageous or weak; shy or alone; to be persecuted, misjudged, misguided; to be bullied or shunned. It allows us to develop empathy and understand many different realities. 

And in the words of CS Lewis: "We read to know we are not alone." 

Three cheers for the National Year of Reading. I love2read!