Friday, 2 May 2014

The book that I fell in love with (and got me hooked)

In Jay Heale's delightful (and distinctly South African) book, Hooked on Books: Why and what to read to your child, she talks about the need for babies and children to handle a book in order for them to really fall in love with them:
"A child needs to be physically connected with the book as an object. You know how small children examine an object. They look at it, stroke it, sniff it, chew at it sometimes. A book is a 'thing' just as much as a spoon or a blanket or a favourite teddy bear."
That's just the first step to truly getting "hooked on books" . Children need to really internalise or own what a book offers. It has to reach deep into them and provide that "food for fantasy" as German children's author, Otfried Preussler famously stated. Jay Heale goes on to say that owning what a book offers goes, "beyond buying books for children, though that can be part of the process. I mean the process of letting what is inside the book transfer itself to you. That includes the sight of the pictures, the sound of the words, the chance to let your mind wander off, to imagine the new ideas, new people, new places, the laughter and the amazement."

If I think back to my childhood, one book stands out as being such a book, namely Die Abenteuer des starken Wanjas (The adventures of strong Vanya) by Otfried Preussler. I remember sitting enthralled on the carpet while our Grade 2 teacher read to us. Although mostly text and simple black and white line drawings, I remember this book as as infinitely colourful and was completely carried along on Wanja's adventures as overcame various challenges to become Tsar in the land beyond the White Mountains.

I was completely captured by this story and when I left Switzerland my Grade 2 teacher gave me a copy of this book to take with me. To be able to keep that story, its magic contained between the covers, was an incredibly empowering experience for me. I could carry that magic with me, hold it, touch it and through this process I fell in love with the book as object.

Although I may not have touched that book for years, I was always aware of it somehow; conscious of its presence there on the bookshelf. It filled a certain space in my mind. It was a kind of step.

Recently I pulled it out and reread it. Memories swirled up, rich and thick like sand in water. It was every bit as magical as the first time. This book really shaped me and I am forever grateful that it found its way into my hands.

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