08-11-2015

Assistant Director Yvette Judge tells us why we need to share stories

book_textbook-e1446964765823As a child, I always loved to hear stories; family gatherings with aunts, uncles and cousins always developed into a communal telling of tales, usually harking back to their lives growing up in 1920′s Birmingham, with a strong sense of place and community. Then there was Listen With Mother on the radio – a voice with an impeccably English accent (I can hear her now in my head!) lulling me to sleep on my mother’s lap. There were weekly trips to the library, choosing my own books, measuring my growth by how far up the library counter I could reach. I can picture wonderful teachers – there was Miss Shawcroft who introduced me to Narnia and to The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, and I can still hear the magical fantasies of Alan Garner, read by Mr Edwards in a mesmerising Welsh lilt.

My first job as a children’s librarian gave me the chance to unleash my inner actor and entertain the toddlers with songs and rhymes, and to discover the importance of the combination of words and pictures to keep the audience entertained. However, it is as a parent with my own children that I truly appreciated the joy of sharing books; for me, nothing was as precious as the bedtime story moment, when Max tamed Sendak’s Wild Things or Mr Bear tried desperately to sleep; Mole’s denouncement of spring cleaning and Winnie the Pooh’s musings on the vagaries of life in the enchanted places may not always be completely understood, but what wonderful seeds of language are being sown in those listeners! Some of the best stories tackle fears and give reassurance; they can be the starting point for discussions, and a secure way of dealing with worries and bringing them out into the open.

So my plea to parents would be: don’t stop sharing books with your children even when they are becoming fluent readers themselves. Bring them to the Festival in 2016 and enjoy some of the amazing talent – Petr Horacek, Chris Haughton, Lauren Child,  David Melling for the youngest ones, Gill Lewis and Lauren St John to challenge older readers, and the list goes on. Words are powerful, stories teach empathy and books take us to places we can otherwise only dream of. Don’t miss the moment!