#RoaldDahlDay and the Importance of Reading

Today is Roald Dahl Day - 100 years since the birth of the man himself - and so I thought a reading related post might be in order.

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a huge bookworm. I studied English at uni, I read whenever I get chance and I also write book reviews for Judging Covers - a collaborative book review blog. But there is something about re-reading all of my childhood favourites with Jack that is really special. Books, like songs or smells, have a way of taking you back to a certain place in time. For me, Charlotte's Web and The Silver Sword still conjure up images of sitting cross legged on my own classroom carpets and listening intently to how the stories would unfold.

Roald Dahl was always my favourite though. Those books were often devoured in the armchair of my childhood living room or under the duvet long after I should have been asleep. I remember receiving a compilation book that included Matilda, The BFG and George's Marvellous Medicine for Christmas one year. I read it so many times that the spine eventually broke!

I've always hoped that Jack would follow in my bookish footsteps. Ever since we established the bath/bottle/bed routine he has always had a bedtime story. When he was tiny it was just another element in his bedtime routine but as he's grown it's been lovely to see him beginning to engage with the stories, picking favourites and, most nights, conning us into reading 'just one more.' We go to the library regularly where he loves to choose his own books and now he's at school he brings new ones home daily for us to look at together.

I'm no expert but research seems to suggest that reading with kids doesn't just improve language, communication and academic skills but it also helps to reinforce a strong bond between parents and their children. That in itself is a good enough reason for me to keep reading with Jack but in a world where kids often opt for TV, video games or tablets over books, I also think it's really important that children are encouraged to use their imagination and concentration to actually enjoy reading. It really is one of the best ways to have fun...in my opinion anyway!

But back to #RoaldDahlDay. Jack is still a little too young to appreciate the works of this legend but in keeping with the theme of the day I thought I'd have a bit of a trip down memory lane by writing about some of my own personal favourites. It's been hard to whittle it down to five but here they are:

1. Matilda (1988)
Matilda was always one of my all time favourite Roald Dahl characters. She was so brave and determined but also sweet and kind despite basically being abused by all of the authority figures in her life! Her love of books rivalled my own and one of my favourite Roald Dahl quotes ever comes from this book.


2. The Witches (1983)
Has there ever been a more terrifying villain than The Grand High Witch?! Although the premise of children-hating witches secretly living among us and trying to eradicate all children from the face of the earth is kind of sinister, this is still one of my favourite books. I was always transfixed by the idea of the little girl who was put into the oil painting where she moved, grew and eventually died!

3. James and the Giant Peach (1961)
Orphans seem to feature heavily in Roald Dahl books. After James's parents are eaten by a rhinoceros, he is sent to live with his evil aunts Spiker and Sponge. But all is not lost...he embarks on an adventure all the way to America with a giant peach as his mode of transport. I think I also liked this book so much because of the way that the insects become his new family (especially ladybird, she was lovely).


4. The Twits (1980)
What a pair of shits these two were! Horrible Mr and Mrs Twit were gross and mean but so funny with it. Although this is one of the sillier stories (and that's saying something) it does contain a powerful message about true beauty coming from within.

5. The Swan (1977)
This is a short story which was originally part of a collection of stories called The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. These stories were aimed at an older audience and were a lot darker than his other books. The Swan is a particularly harrowing tale about a boy who is bullied and subjected to some horrible abuse from two other kids. Not sure if it's a favourite as such but definitely one that's always stayed with me.

Happy Roald Dahl day! What are your favourite books?

Read With Me

On Your First Day At School

Jack,

Tomorrow is your first day at school!

Come tomorrow morning you will be another little face in a sea of anxious foundation-ers in oversized uniforms and I will be another mummy, waving you off and trying to hold in my sobs (at least until you've gone inside). Truth be told, I'm freaking out. But I'm trying not to let you see that and instead I keep reminding you about how awesome school is and how much fun you're going to have there.

The new routine will give the days of the week more meaning and you'll soon get to know about stressy Mondays and happy Fridays. You'll become familiar with the smells (floor polish, cabbage, wet coats, grass, coffee) and the sounds (ringing bells, shouting, hymns, clippety cloppety heels on wooden floors) too. You'll begin to learn and grow, discovering where your interests lie and shaping your own ambitions for the future. You'll learn how to read all by yourself - something I know you're very excited about. You'll make important friendships, some that may only last a short while and others that will stand the test of time. There'll be singing and PE and school trips and, if you're really lucky, maybe even chocolate concrete and pink custard at lunchtime.

It won't always be easy though. There might be times that you find yourself on the outside of certain friendship circles. You may become frustrated and overwhelmed by what's being asked of you (if you're anything like me that'll happen when it comes to learning about fractions...yuck). There will be times when you just don't feel like getting out of bed in the morning. I'd be lying if I said I haven't worried about how you'll cope with the transition but deep down I know you're ready.

I'm just not sure that I am.

Starting school marks the end of an era for both of us. My best friend (your Aunty Lucy) started her maternity leave on Friday and I remarked at how strange it felt that she is finishing work just as I'm about to increase my hours. Her baby years are just about to start while ours are well and truly over. But gosh, how I've loved them.

I will miss picking you up from nursery on a Wednesday lunchtime then having the rest of the week until the following Monday stretching out ahead of us. Nothing in particular to do and nowhere in particular to be. I will miss our lazy Thursdays, our Friday café dates and our impromptu trips to soft play and the park. I will miss afternoon naps, making your lunches and snuggling up in front of Disney films on rainy days. I will miss you.

But this isn't about me. It's about you and the next chapter in your life. This is your time now. You'll learn to be independent and you'll need me less and less. I just hope you know that, no matter how old you get, I'll always be here waiting to hear about your day.

I don't know if you'll ever read this but if you do I want you to know that you are ready to start school, you are happy about it and I have every faith that you'll handle the transition just as well as you've handled all of the other challenges you've experienced in your little life so far. I am so, so proud of you and I can't wait to see how the next few years unfold for you.

Have fun little one, I love you.

Your mummy xx