River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Notes from a newcomer

November 2004

Marian remembers her joys of reading a child and how she intends to pass this on to her grandchildren

When my first step grandson Sean was born last year, I knew for sure that he was never going to be short of clothes. One of his proper grannies had knitted him a whole wardrobe of matinee jackets, bonnets and leggings before he was even born (nobody told her that the modern infant wears designer labels from day one). And as for toys! I guess today's children would laugh in disbelief if I told them that my entire collection fitted into a smallish wooden box made by my grandfather. Its contents, plus a few dolls and a couple of battered Teddies, were the sum total of my playthings and I didn't feel I was hard done by at all. I only wonder how youngsters these days find enough hours in the day to play with their Aladdin's Cave of goodies.

So, with clothes and toys being pretty much a case of coals to Newcastle, I decided that my role in Sean's life would be Book Granny. There was a slight delay before I could start in earnest (the lad needed to get to grips with a few basics like eating and walking) but now that he's up on his pins and eager to explore the world, the time is ripe. His mum tells me that even at the tender age of 18 months, he is already showing an interest in books - picking them out from his other toys and pointing to the pictures. That's my boy! Television is fine and dandy but you can't read it by torchlight under the bedclothes or take it to your secret den at the bottom of the garden.

It's a good 30 years since I bought my goddaughter her first bumper book of nursery rhymes and nearer 50 since I read bedtime stories to my brothers (Winnie-the-Pooh - doing all the voices, from a rumbly growl for Pooh to a high squeak for Piglet) so I had some catching up to do when it came to reading matter for tiny tots. I was delighted to discover the range available; cleverly produced books such as Spot the Dog and The Hungry Caterpillar, beautifully illustrated, with flaps to lift and pull. Better still, many are printed on board so toddlers can handle them right from the start without fear of torn pages to spoil the story.

I hope that very soon young Sean will follow in my footsteps and start mercilessly bullying his parents and any other obliging adults to read stories to him. My mother tells me that in desperation (and boredom with my limited library) she used to read out chunks of Woman's Own in the hopes of lulling me to sleep. I didn't care - at that stage I was a completely undiscriminating consumer of words; Margaret Lockwood's life story was fine with me. As soon as I could read for myself, I read everything I could lay my hands on from the small print on the label of the HP Sauce bottle to my father's RAF survival at sea booklet ('inflate your Mae West and refrain from drinking sea water or your own urine').

Now I'm looking forward to introducing Sean and his little cousin Callum to an equally varied range of literature - everything from Treasure Island (their granddad's childhood favourite) to Beano annuals. "Heh, heh, heh!", as Minnie the Minx would say.

Marian Clarke

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