Wombat Books Blog
School: William Carey Christian School
What do you like best about your illustration? I drew, first, the outline of the major shapes in my picture, and then used water colour pencils to fill in the picture. I liked the lighter colours where the glass fence appears.
Why did you enter the Zoo Ball Challenge? Because I enjoy drawing and something different to draw.
Tell us a bit about yourself? I really love drawing and painting and anything crafty! I play piano and love it.
When my son was born I rummaged through my cupboard and located an old box. I knew I had stored my favourite books from my childhood in it in case my children, one day, enjoyed them too.
Going through them as an adult was a bittersweet experience. Some of them I read again with fondness. With some I looked through their pages and said to myself, ‘What did I ever see in this thing?’. The book of fairy tales was especially scary. I wonder if my parents did some editing when they read us those stories, because they certainly scared me as an adult!
There’s no doubt it hurt me when my son didn’t feel the same way I did about the books I gave him. Being a boy, I probably couldn’t expect him to appreciate Sparkle the Pony or Dot and the Kangaroo as much as I did, but it was difficult to deal with, especially considering how many wonderful memories there were for me in those books.
The books we read as a child can provide us with memories we will treasure forever. I remember how often I asked my father to read The Wheedle on the Needle and The Mole Family Christmas. These are books that few people apart from me will have heard of, but I will never forget them. I wonder which books my son will remember most? Will it be a common classic like The Cat in the Hat or The Gruffalo? Will it be some others that we found in some obscure place that will only be special to him? Will it be some of Wombat’s own titles, like Little Good Wolf or The Anything Shop?
I will watch with interest to see which books he keeps to pass on to his children.
When I (Lynne Stringer) was about seven years old the teacher in my class started to read aloud from Charlotte’s Web by EB White. It was my first encounter with this classic, and I fell in love with it instantly. I’m not sure if that was just because of White’s brilliant prose, either. I think my teacher also played a part in it.
When she read the book, she really read it. It was clear she was familiar with it. The ‘voice’ of each character in the story had a different sound. She would change the way she spoke when reading the dialogue of different characters and was expressive in the way she read it. It felt like we were seeing the story unfold in front of us, rather than hearing someone read aloud.
Unfortunately, before she finished the book, this teacher left the school. A substitute teacher took her place. She read aloud the next chapter of Charlotte’s Web. I remember it as well as if it was yesterday. It was an appalling change! It was clear this new woman wasn’t much of a reader. The book went from being something magical to being something dull simply because of the lack of expression and interest she put into reading it. I could tell that she took no joy in what she was doing and that feeling was passed onto the class.
If you are reading to children I commiserate with you if reading is not something that you are fond of doing. That makes it difficult for you. I’m fortunate that I enjoy it and am enthusiastic about it. But I know it can be a chore for some, but the more effort you put into it, the more your child will get out of it.
Try reading the book before you sit down with your child so you know what happens and where it goes. Then try and think about how you would say the lines of dialogue if you were in that conversation yourself. We all speak differently depending on what we are saying and who we are talking to, and it will help keep your child engaged if you try and put that in your voice.
Does a character in the book seem old and crotchety? Try and make them sound that way. Does one seem prim and proper? Is there some way you can express that? Try and imagine it as a movie and how it might play out. This may help you as you try to express it to your child.
As many children’s books are now being made into movies you may wonder if it serves any purpose to do this, but nothing will beat the pleasure your child gets from experiencing the book with you, especially if you try and bring the characters to life for them. It may be something that stays with them forever.
By Lynne Stringer
Most books have some kind of moral in them. Even the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales (I didn’t realise just how grim some of their stories were until I was an adult trying to read them to my son!) so it’s not like it’s a modern thing. Stories with morals have been around for a long time. Jesus told parables to demonstrate a moral and I’m sure it wasn’t new then, either.
But can books go too far? Can a story have too much moral in it?
I’ve also noticed, in recent days, that some stories are being toned down. As a child, I remember hearing the story of The Little Red Hen. She tries to get the other animals on the farm to help her make some bread, but they’re all too lazy to help. Then, once the bread is made, they all come to join her in eating it, but she refuses to give them any because they refused to help. I recently heard this story retold on Play School and they’d softened it up, so that the other animals were simply busy, but did come to help at the last minute, so the hen shared the bread with them and they all agreed to help more next time.
I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Was the moral in the original version demonstrated too harshly? Were they right to water it down? Or is the new version a wishy-washy, politically correct tale? Which version is better?
I think the answer to that will vary for each one of us. Personally, I like a story with a bit of a moral, even if it’s so subtle it’s difficult to see. Sometimes they are the better stories, as you’re not even aware you’re picking up a moral, and sometimes, you never will be. Perhaps it is another reason we should be careful what we read, in case something slips in, unbeknownst to us.
I think we should always try to be aware of what the stories we read are trying to teach, whether they are doing it subtly or brazenly. But enjoy each story for its own sake as well.