About the only thing I have in common with George W. Bush is that we share an appreciation for The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a classic children's book written by Eric Carle that cleverly shows the life cycle of a caterpillar whilst teaching children to count. It is also beautifully illustrated and caters to kids' love of lollipops and cupcakes. The book was first published in 1969, the year before I was born, and for me it always evokes happy memories from my childhood. (Bush was 23 when it was published, but still listed it amongst his favourite childhood books. Maybe he just came to reading a bit late?)
For me, one of the great things about having kids has been sharing my love of books with them. Our kids have had stories as part of their bedtime ritual since they were old enough to sit up and listen. (Now the eldest, Ruby, finds it impossible to go to sleep without reading something first and carries on like a junkie looking for a fix if she hasn't got anything.)
Part of the joy in reading to my kids has been rediscovering all the classics that I loved when I was a child. Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Where The Wild Things Are and everything by Roald Dahl.
Our youngest, Jemma, has recently entered a phase where her concentration can sustain reading a book over many nights, as opposed to many short books in a night. So we have started dipping into the treasure trove that is Roald Dahl's marvellous imagination.
We started with The Twits, two of the meanest, most horrible people imaginable who meet a sticky end…
Then we did James and the Giant Peach, the story of a boy who escapes from his horrible aunts by flying away in a giant peach filled with large and loveable insects. (As is often the case, Dahl kills the parents off in the first chapter so the child protagonist can go off on adventures. In James' case they were run over by an escaped rhinoceros. Amazingly, these violent ends to parents' lives never seems to disturb the little ones.)
We progressed to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (parents alive, but pitifully poor, so Charlie needs to escape.) After reading this, is there anyone who didn't want to find a golden ticket and live in a magical chocolate factory?
Now we are coming to the end of The BFG or Big Friendly Giant where the orphan Sophie is befriended by a dream-blowing giant and together they convince the Queen to capture the evil child-eating giants.
I'm not sure who is enjoying it more, me or Jemma!
Apparently 46% of Australians aged 15-74 don't have the literacy skills required for modern living, yet a bit of bedtime reading is seen as the best way to address this problem.
It's the National Year of Reading so the perfect time to start.
C'mon, if George W. can do it….