Children’s books: Friends for life

Our team of dedicated volunteers have been sorting, packing and storing books away in preparation for the 30 April – 3 May 2021 UQ Alumni Book Fair®. In particular, the Book Group have been receiving an influx of children’s books from our donation destinations at Long Pocket and St Lucia campus. I chatted with one of our volunteers as they sorted through the boxes, finding every sort of book a child could want. The piles consisted of options for toddlers, primary school readers and those teetering into YA. Among them were genres including realistic fiction, fairytale/ folklore, science fiction, fantasy, and the general knowledge ‘fact-based’ books. It was a fascinating discussion, filled with tips for buying books for children which inspired many memories of childhood favourites…
I glimpsed Where’s Spot? in a pile, and was immediately taken back to my own childhood. I was always so excited to read through a Spot book, finding comfort in knowing exactly how the story played out and what was hidden behind all those flaps. To a young reader, there’s nothing better than those tactile sensations; whether that be lifting a flap to reveal something beneath, or smoothing over an animal’s silky coat.
One of the volunteers I spoke with, a former teacher, stressed the importance of children being read to from a young age, as it’s a critical part in their development. Books can encourage showing, pointing, talking, sharing and becoming familiar with common words. They can help children understand social structures in society to work out how they fit and how other people fit, in ways that are the same and ways that are different. Books are a good way to introduce race, gender, and religion; all important and difficult social subjects to broach.
Looking for books with thicker pages for a child’s little fingers was another tip I picked up, as they’re easier to grasp than the traditional thin paper. They also noted that if a page is filled with too many words, even if they’re quite large, a young reader would likely feel overwhelmed.
As we chatted, a volunteer pulled a few from the growing stacks, showing me copies of The Magic Faraway Tree, A Little Bush Maid and Gulliver’s Travels. Recalling fondly the feeling of curling up and getting lost in the pages, she smiled and commented that, ‘they were actually quite political’ (or even now considered politically incorrect). It made me realise that the stories we read as children, stay with us well past childhood.
I spied another of my favourite bedtime stories, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and was immediately reminded of the song. The illustrations looked exactly as I remembered. Not only is the Book Fair a wonderful way to stock-up on newer books for the younger generations, but it’s also a fantastic way for nostalgic adults to find the books that shaped them; the old favourites and classics in the editions they remember. If there’s an old friend you’ve been missing, they might be waiting for you on one of our trestle tables at the Book Fair.
Morgan De Silva