World Book Day is an annual awareness day which celebrates authors, illustrators, books and, a subject close to my heart, reading. In fact, it has been designated a worldwide celebration of reading by UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation).
The main aim of World Book Day in the UK and Ireland is to encourage children to explore the pleasure of reading by giving them the chance to have a book of their own. And to help with this, participating schools have been sent packs of book tokens and age-ranged World Book Day Resource Packs with lots of ideas, activities and display material.
When I learned to read, we had the old Janet & John books (“Look, Janet, the dog has the ball” – it’s ingrained now!) and fairy tales came in the form of the classic Ladybird books.
World Book Day has got me thinking about those books dear to my heart and that I’d want to talk about in school.
These are just some of them – and I’ve specifically listed the paperback versions because, much as I love my Kindle, it is never quite the same reading experience.
And I believe our kids have far too much ‘screen time’ as it is. On the other hand, of course, if you wanted to read these to your kids as a bedtime story, many fabulous children’s books are downloadable free of charge.
Young Heidi goes to live with her grandfather in his lonely hut high in the Swiss Alps and she quickly learns to love her life there. Her strict aunt decides to send her away, back to the town. Heidi can’t bear being away from the mountains and is determined to return to her happy life with her grandfather.
These are stories of a little country girl, Milly-Molly-Mandy who lives in a tiny village in the heart of the countryside. She is a busy little bee, whether earning money to give a party, minding the village shop, having a picnic or going sledging. Despite the stories being nearly 80 years old, they are still enjoyed today.
Katy Carr is a tomboy who dreams of being “beautiful and beloved, and amiable as an angel”. Unfortunately, Katy is untidy and always getting into mischief. When a terrible accident threatens her grand plans for the future, she needs all her courage and humour to see her through.
Mary Lennox is sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle and everybody says she is the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. Pale, spoilt and quite contrary, Mary is also horribly lonely. One day she hears about a garden in the grounds of the Manor that has been kept locked and hidden for years. And when a friendly robin helps Mary find the key, she discovers the most magical Secret Garden.
This is one of the best selling books of all time, selling over 50 million copies. Although ostensibly about animal welfare, it is really an allegory about how to treat people with kindness, sympathy and respect. Narrated by the horse, Black Beauty, each chapter tells of an incident in Black Beauty’s life and contains a lesson or moral.
Actually the second in The Faraway Tree series, this is about Joe, Beth and Frannie who find an enchanted wood on the doorstep of their new home. This is the start of many magical adventures with characters such as Moonface, Saucepan Man and Silky the fairy. Blyton is arguably the most famous children’s author of all time and her stories still sell thousands of copies every year.
The Wind in the Willows is a children’s novel by Kenneth Grahame, first published in 1908. It is the story of kind, sleepy badger, brave and lively ratty and irresponsible Toad, together with the sinister weasels and stoats who capture Toad Hall when Mr Toad is in jail. It is up to his friends to, as Ieuan (and Captain Adorable) would put it, save the day and save Toad Hall.
Incidentally, my mother used to say I drove my car like Mr Toad. Hmmm.
Which children’s classics would you add to this list?