Reading habits start early

Moon-Face, Mister Watzisname, Silky and the Saucepan Man, feasting on Pop Biscuits and Google Buns (no they’re not virtual food items delivered on your computer screen!)

How about dodging the dirty washing-water which Dame Washalot pours down the trunk at regular intervals and avoiding peeping in at the Angry Pixie, who throws things at those who poke and pry.

Do you recognize these characters?

I’ve always loved reading and my childhood was filled with these stories from The Magic Faraway Tree along with the other many characters created by prolific author, Enid Blyton (1897-1968).

Whether you’re a devotee or not, just look at these astonishing stats:

  • Blyton’s books have sold more than 600 million copies.
  • In the decade from 2000 she was still in the Top Ten authors, selling 7,910,758 copies worth £31.2m in the UK alone.
  • More than a million Famous Five books are sold worldwide each year.
  • Blyton’s books have been translated into more than 90 different languages.
  • The Magic Faraway Tree was voted no. 66 in the BBC’s Big Read.
  • 753 titles are credited to her over a 45 year career with an average of 16 titles published per year.

Creating good reading habits as a young child is essential for developing lifelong enjoyment of books and you need to start somewhere.

I still have my copy of Hello Mr Twiddle, received as a gift when I was seven. This book was well loved through the years and even now when flicking through I can find little gems to delight my inner child.

Mr Twiddle was always getting into trouble. This particular night after he was supposed to take Tinker outside to his kennel, we find the dog is under the bed and his doggy snores awaken Mrs Twiddle. A vexed Mrs Twiddle attempts to engage her husband in the reality that they are not alone in the bedroom. It is the lick to the nose that alerts Mrs Twiddle to who the ‘unwelcome’ person is and accuses Mr Twiddle of failing in his duty, but he is having nothing of it:

‘Well, I did put him there,’ said Mr Twiddle, feeling as if he were in some kind of peculiar dream. ‘But I’m not going out to put him there again, wife. If there’s a Tinker in the kennel and a Tinker here too, we’ve got two dogs, that’s all. Good-night!’

He, he, he! Delightfully farcical! Mr and Mrs Twiddle could be transplanted into any slapstick comedy!

The adventures of Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy the dog in The Famous Five and of course Peter, Janet, Jack, Barbara, George, Pam and Colin in The Secret Seven have been devoured by generations of children, including my own twelve year old.

Blyton has had plenty of criticism such as claims that her vocabulary was too limited, that she presented too rosy a view of the world, even suggestions that little Noddy’s relationship with Big Ears was “suspect”, that he was a poor role model for boys because he sometimes wept when frustrated and the laws were politically incorrect. Her response to this criticism is said to be that she was not interested in the views of critics aged over 12.

Hear, hear.

Children still love to read Enid Blyton books and we, now as the ‘learned adults’, can postulate all the theories we want about the worth of this. We know the benefits of establishing good reading habits while children are young and if Enid Blyton books help achieve this, then this is ALL good. We lament often enough that kids lose their innocence too quickly, spend too much time on electronic devices and don’t explore the outside world around them.

There will be opportunity once ‘engaged’ for readers to move on from their first Blyton chapter books and start challenging their innocent knowledge of the world with the edgier and more demanding material available when older.

P.s. I was always saddened that my older sister owned The Magic Faraway Tree and not me…

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2 thoughts on “Reading habits start early

  1. Enid Blyton was my ‘comfort read’ when I was a child – I particularly loved The Secret Island and Mr Galliano’s Circus. We all need comfort reads to turn to on a cold and frosty night, when we’re tired and fed up or feeling abit out of sorts. That is the joy of reading – it can fulfill so many different purposes throughout ones life – there is a book and genre for every mood, every phase and stage.

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