Thoughtful picture books
Published on: 28 May 2015 Author: Lindsey Greenwood
Bookstart Mum and English teacher, Lindsey Greenwood, shares her thoughts on what children's books can teach all of us.
How exciting! We managed to meet the Bookstart Bear recently at our local library. He made a special appearance at our inaugural Literature Festival in Cleckheaton, and even presented the children with free books.
My little boy loved his gift, but was a bit overwhelmed by the size of the Bookstart Bear, so I thanked him on my son's behalf.
We couldn't wait to see which books were inside and were thrilled to discover that one of them was Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton. I'm not sure whether it's the brightly-coloured pictures or the fact that George the dog shares my son's name, but it's the only book he wants to read at the moment.
I was also curious to discover a philosopher's quote on the first page of this picture book:
'Freedom is secured not by fulfilling one's desires, but by the removal of desire. No man is free who is not master of himself.'
It's such a simple message, but one that means so much in our consumer-dominated 21st century. Self-control is a key life skill which needs to be encouraged from a young age. However, I was surprised and impressed that an author of children's books is using his trade to spread philosophical ideas.
It wasn't long before I found myself wondering whether we have read any other books that may take their inspiration from ethical thought. So, I rummaged around George's bookcase and found:
- The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson, showing the power of kindness.
- Some Dogs Do by Jez Alborough, encouraging self-belief and the power of miracles.
- A Squash and a Squeeze, also by Julia Donaldson, reminding us to appreciate what life has already given us.
This is an aspect of children's literature that I will actively look out for in future and it's yet another reason why reading with children is so important. I can remember from my own childhood how books for children often dealt with difficult or unusual issues. One of my personal favourites was Stig of the Dump by Clive King. It's an uplifting story, which teaches self-belief, friendship and how overcoming obstacles such as a language barrier, enables us to discover that people are all the same.
It's exciting to think that as my son grows up, we'll be able to discuss the issues raised in so many books and use them as an accessible guide for learning how to negotiate the world around us. This is what Chris Haughton's simple yet effective book does so well; it allows us to question the character's actions and learn from his mistakes, rather than from our own.
Thank you Bookstart for opening my eyes even further. What would I do without you?