Sophy Henn: 'There are so many great reasons to share books with young children'

Published on: 14 June 2016 Author: Sophy Henn

Following on from our Bath, Book, Bed campaign, Sophy Henn, picture book author-illustrator of Where Bear?, Pom Pom Gets the Grumps, Pom Pom the Champion, Pass it On and Pom Pom is Super talks about the best books to read at bedtime and why it's important to share books.

There are so many great reasons to share books with young children

Why do you think sharing books with young children is so important?

There are so many great reasons to share books with young children. I started reading to my daughter ridiculously early, when she was still a baby, pretty much as soon as I could focus through the eye bags! I think it was because I was rediscovering picture books, I loved seeing her reaction to my silly voices (no, it wasn't wind!) and just enjoying snuggling up with a story.

Though I have recently discovered that talking to babies/toddlers is a great way to get their language skills where they should be before school, which in turn helps with their reading and writing. But when they are tiny conversation with your children is pretty one sided, and my conversation wasn't exactly sparkling on five hours sleep, so having a book to read was great. It's such an accessible and fun way to give your child a great start at school.

Also it's no secret young children are faced with a relentless onslaught of new experiences or emotions and books are also a great way to start a conversation about almost anything... picky eating, sharing, the grumps, bereavement, the list is endless! It's often easier to see someone else going through it and talking about it, than discussing your own experiences.

AND sharing a story is such a lovely thing to do, a rhyme to start the day, a giggly story in the afternoon, and maybe a gentle tale at bedtime.

What were your favourite bedtime stories as a child?

I loved Cops and Robbers by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. I loved the repetition and all the detail on the illustrations. Not to mention the scandalous behaviour of the Robbers! A bit later on I loved Milly Molly Mandy stories. They are so comforting and celebrate the little day to day things that seemed utterly relatable.

I grew mustard and cress as a result of Milly Molly Mandy Spends a Penny! I used to nod off with lovely images of Milly, Molly, Mandy, Little Friend Susan and lid potatoes running through my mind.

What books do you currently/did you used to read to your children at bedtime? And, because we know how important sleep is - for parents as well as little ones! - which ones can you recommend to other parents and carers?!

I would love to read to my daughter still, I have very fond memories of it, but I don't think she would appreciate it at 14! Though she did when she was little and Charlie and Lola were big favourites, they were almost new then and very exciting.

The everydayness of the stories, the rhythm of the language and the wonderful illustrations - we are huge Lauren Child fans. Little Rabbit Lost was also a big hit. The detail in the illustrations, the soothing colours and the lovely, snuggly happy ending, a great combination for a good night's sleep.

What are the main benefits of a bedtime story routine, do you think?

Bedtime stories are a lovely way to end the day on a positive note. Life is busy and often by bedtime EVERYONE is exhausted. Sharing a story is a lovely way to calm everyone down and signal it's very nearly time to sleep.

When you pick up a book you don't have to overthink it, just snuggle down and dive in. And who knows, you could be nurturing a little bookworm. I still pick up a book when I get into bed and it still does the trick!

What are your bedtime reads right now?

Like most people I have a ridiculously over ambitious pile of books next to my bed, but the three that have floated to the top and I am currently reading are My Brother is a Superhero (when I am very tired), My Name is Leon (when I am not so tired) and Everyday Sexism (when I am wide awake). And there is always a Nancy Mitford or Angela Thirkell on the go! Heaven!

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