Helping young children become readers has been one of the most exciting parts of my teaching career. Sharing old favourites, introducing and discussing new authors and titles, but, most of all, watching the children’s excitement grow as the world of the reader opens up to them (see Figure 8.1).
My own memories of school reading are not exciting. I can vividly recall being sent to the headmistress’s study to read some of my ‘Happy Venture Reader’ book to her. Although I can remember Dick, Dora, Nip and Fluff, it is not with any particular affection. They are remembered more as distant relations who had to be tolerated, rather than as good friends. The books with which I formed the closest ties were those introduced to me by my mother: Little Bear, Fox in Socks and many others. This was in the late 1950s. Since then there has been an explosion in the publishing of books for children, providing educators with a rich and varied selection to use in the classroom.
Liz Waterland (1992) talks about the difference between ‘free range’ and ‘battery’ books. The difference between these being that free range books are written by authors and illustrators who have had freedom to carefully choose and compose their books from the imagination, whilst ‘battery’ books are products of a factory type approach to literature. ‘There is a hint of unnatural practices, of confinement and restriction…even a suggestion of the mechanical and the automatic’ (pp. 160-1).