In response to my recent post, Living with an Imaginative Child, one reader asked at what stage I introduced Enid Blyton to Immy.The short answer is when she was three years old. The long answer includes a little more detail about how reading longer stories and novels together came to happen in our home, hopefully including a few tips for those of you who hope to introduce them to your own children.
I must start by saying that I adored reading Enid Blyton as a child. I have fond memories of being captivated by the illustrated adventures of Jo, Bessie, Fanny in The Magic Faraway Tree, and Peter, Mollie and Chinky in The Wishing Chair, and later of being completely engrossed (as an independent reader) in the Famous Five and Secret Seven, not to mention the Naughtiest Girl and the students at Malory Towers.
I think it is also important to note that we read together as part of our family’s daily rhythm every day, and have since Immy was a baby. Initially, our reading time was first thing in the morning, cuddled in bed together before we started the day. Nowadays, it is every evening as part of Immy’s bedtime routine. As well, most days I read aloud to Immy as we eat breakfast or lunch – I find it a great way to settle my busy, once-toddler, now-preschooler and keep her at the table!
Immy loves books and reading together. Whether this is nature or nurture, I have no idea (and figure it is a bit of both), it is just something we have always done. Plus, we read lots of different types of texts – everything from picture books to magazines, catalogues to event programs, and now longer stories and novels suitable for young children. Engagement with reading will be different for every child, and this will influence what they most enjoy reading (both with your, and later, independently), and at what age or stage of development they are ready for wordier challenges.
When Immy was born I purchased a reasonably priced, unmodernised copy of The Magic Faraway Tree in good condition on eBay (these are popular titles and often sell for more than more recently published versions, however I personally prefer them both for their full colour illustrations and original text). Then for her first Christmas, she received a copy of The Wishing Chair Collection (three books in one) from my sister.
These books have been on Immy’s bookshelf amongst her regular picture books since she was a young toddler, sitting alongside a classic fairy tale collection given to her when she was born, and a number of children’s novels (and longer, illustrated stories such as those by Graeme Base) from my own childhood or teaching days. The collection has grown with each Christmas and birthday.
And one day when she was three years old, when asked (as she is everyday) what she would like to read at bedtime, Immy chose The Wishing Chair Collection. So we gave it a go, reading a few chapters each night, and she really enjoyed it. Once it was finished, I asked if she would like to read The Magic Faraway Tree next and she agreed. These books captured the heart and mind of my imaginative child, and I think that is one of the keys to reading aloud longer stories together – finding those that best suit the interests of your child.
The library can be a great place to find ideas and inspiration if you are not sure which titles to try with your child. I found a great illustrated copy of The Wizard of Oz when Immy became hooked on the Wicked (musical) soundtrack at our local library. Our two closest libraries have defined sections within the children’s collection for longer stories and novels which makes browsing much easier. At this stage, I tend to stick to mainly classic stories that I am already familiar with, mainly because I don’t currently have the time to pre-read new titles to make sure they are suitable for my four year old.
If you are not sure if your child is ready, starting with a longer story style picture book might be the best way to go, considering the amount of text on each page, and the nature of the illustrations – how frequently are illustrations used? How detailed are they? Are they black and white or full colour? These factors can influence a child’s engagement with the particular book or story.
I think it is also alright to try a book and if it is not engaging your child, to leave it for another time. After all, this is what we do as adult readers. This has happened to us a few times, most recently with a Paddington Bear collection, and we have left it on the shelf to come back to when (and if) Immy is ready.
Here is a list of some of the books we have read together in the past 12 months;
~ The Wishing Chair Collection by Enid Blyton, 2002, Egmont Books.
~ The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, Illustrated by Georgina Hargreaves, (our copy is) 2001, Hinkler Books.
~ The Folk of the Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, Illustrated by Georgina Hargreaves, (our copy is) 1986, Budget Books.
~ The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: A Classic Disney Treasury, 1998, Penguin Books.
~ The Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, 1983 (Large Format Edition), Book Club Associates.
~ The Legend of the Golden Snail by Graeme Base, 2010, Abrams Books for Young Readers.
~ Enigma: A Magical Mystery by Graeme Base, 2008, Penguin Group.
~ The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Illustrated by Michael Foreman, 2002, Pavilion Children’s Books.
~ A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond, 2010, Harper Collins.
~ Classic Fairy Tales: Enchanting Stories from Around the World, 2005, Arcturus Publishing. (I should note, we are careful about which fairy tales we read to Immy thanks to her very active imagination).
~ The Wind in the Willows series – The River Bank, The Wild Wood, Mr Toad & Mr Toad Comes Home, from Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, adapted by Jane Carruth, illustrated by Rene Cloke, 1990, Award Publications Limited.
~ The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Illustrated by Eric Kincaid, 2012, The Five Mile Press (this version has been lightly abridged).
~ The O’Clock Tales by Enid Blyton (short stories), 2010, Egmont Books.
I am still on the lookout for a reasonably priced, good condition second hand copy of the remaining Magic Faraway book, The Enchanted Forest!
Do you include longer stories and novels when reading aloud together? Do you have any favourites (or familiar classics) to recommend?