It seems as if books have always played a major role in my life. From as young as four, I remember taking books to bed with me and as I grew older, the piles of books on my bed grew higher. Enjoying books was hereditary. My parents loved to read and collected a small library throughout their lives. In fact, when we migrated to Australia, they brought seventeen cartons of books with us.
It would be a rare bedtime that my mother, and less often my father, would skip reading me at least one story. Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit stories, illustrated fairy tales, all the Eloise books and The Wind in the Willows were just some of the stories read to me at night. As I grew older the stories became chapters of well loved books and I could hardly wait for the next bedtime to hear the next chapter. Among my absolute favourites were The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, The Little Princess and The Secret Garden both by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Heidi by Johanna Spyri. I still own a few of these beloved books.
With each of these books, I escaped into different worlds. I didn’t notice it at the time, but each of these books had strong female protagonists and I loved to pretend I was one of them. I would immerse myself in the stories, at first listening as they were read to me, later reading and rereading them myself. Of course, they weren’t the only books I read. I devoured practically anything. All the Enid Blyton books, the Lone Pine Five series, Mary Poppins, Little Women and all the sequels, the Narnia series and many more which I can no longer remember.
When I became a mother, I also read to my boys, every night and sometimes during the day. None of them have grown up as obsessed with books as I am but at least they have been exposed to some of my favourite children’s literature. Best of all, they remember the stories I read to them. Now that I’m a grandmother, I read to my grandsons as much as I can and I always buy books as presents. The eldest, at just over two and a half years old, already has his favourite books and he sometimes “reads” them to me. This weekend I was babysitting and he “read” me all four In the Night Garden mini books. He might not know all the words, but the story is very clear. I can’t wait until his ten-month-old brother “reads” to me as well.
I still read as often as I can, although nowadays my books are likely to be found on my Kindle. I still love and own real books, but my Kindle is just so convenient, small enough and light enough to fit in my handbag for that spare ten or fifteen minutes on a tram or train. My tastes have changed now as well. I tend to prefer non-fiction; memoir and biography, over fiction but I still enjoy reading about strong female protagonists.
Which are your favourite books?