Monday, 27 February 2012

Our favourite children's books for World Book Day

If you have school-age children I'm sure you already know that it's World Book Day on Thursday (1st March). Most schools organise something or other to celebrate the day, and at our school we usually encourage the children to dress up as their favourite book character.

I love children's books and started collecting them long before I had my own children, but when my girls came along it gave me the chance to indulge my love of children's books. My girls are now 15 and 12, but over the years we have found some new favourites and kept some old ones too.

When I was little I loved the Wishing Chair stories, by Enid Blyton, but thought they might be a bit old-fashioned for my girls. I gave them a try anyway, and they absolutely loved them! And each chapter is just long enough for a bedtime story and leaves the reader on a cliffhanger for the next day.

I remember hearing both girls talking about it one day, trying to guess what might happen next.

Of course,  once we'd finished the Wishing Chair stories it was natural to move onto the Magic Faraway Tree. Fabulous, innocent stories. Love them.

Scarlette Beane by Karen Wallace is a magical tale of a little girl who dreams of making the most incredible garden, and finds she has special gifts that help her dream come true.

This was The Teenager's absolute favourite book when she was younger, and never tired of hearing the story and poring over Jon Berkeley's beautiful illustrations. A really lovely book.

Image from Amazon
Tall Daughter's favourite book is probably No Matter What by Debi Gliori, although she's such a book worm that it's difficult to choose just one.

No Matter What manages to be both funny and moving, and is the story of a mother fox explaining her unconditional love to her cub. This is the perfect book for confirming that  no matter what your child does you will always love them, and the illustrations are both fabulous and witty.

When Tall Daughter was about 8 or 9, we started reading The Sophie Stories by the fabulous Dick King-Smith. They're about a small but very determined girl, Sophie, who loves animals and wants to be a farmer when she grows up.  Once again, each chapter is just the right length for a bedtime story, and there are 6 books in the series. We were really sad to finish these books, and that there were only 6 of them.

From about the age of 10 or 11, The Teenager started reading books by Cathy Cassidy.  She read all of the ones available at the time. Tall Daughter is also a fan and is currently reading Marshmallow Skye.

We have shelves of lovely books and enjoy reading them but it's easy to forget how privileged we are.

In Kenya, for example, hundreds of thousands of children never finish primary school, whether because of their own sickness, or because they must tend to a sick relative, or simply because they need to work to survive. Extreme poverty and HIV/Aids are commonplace. Those who do finish primary school often don't have even a single book in their classroom. Unsurprisingly, reading and writing skills are poor, and the children's chances of fulfilling their potential are slim.

Book Aid International works to change all of this.

Of the more than 500,000 books sent to sub-Saharan Africa last year, about 330,000 were for children in schools and libraries. Winnie, one of those Kenyan primary school children who would otherwise not be learning to read or write, goes to the Kisii library in Kibuye. She told Book Aid: “I like reading books because books are the things that motivate us and let us be what we want.”

If you'd like to support World Book Day and be part of this change, there are many ways to get involved and can find more information on Book Aid website.

Of course I've left out lots of books from our favourites list, and my daughters wanted to also mention Guess How Much I Love You, You Choose, most of Jacqueline Wilson's books and the Rainbow Fairy series.

What are your children's favourite books or favourite book characters?