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Books that opened up a magical world
CHILDREN’S literature experts at Oxford’s Blackwell’s bookshop are backing the campaign to get youngsters reading – and telling us about the books that have inspired them.
Events co-ordinator Emily Sargeant said: “Children’s literacy is supremely important when, more so than ever before, we are bombarded with electronic forms of entertainment that do all the imagining for us.
“Reading forces you to put yourself into another person’s shoes, to live another life, sometimes in another world.
“The skills of imagination and empathy are essential wherever you go – but not only that, reading is a wonderful habit that will enrich your life.” Ms Sargeant, who chose the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, as her favourite children’s books, said: “When I first read the first book in the series, The Northern Lights, I found it really difficult to get into and gave up after a couple of chapters.
Yet when I came back to it a few years later I absolutely adored the book, and couldn’t put it down.
I love the trilogy for its scope, its imagination, its depiction of adolescent awakening and for the big questions it forces you to ask yourself. A wonderful adventure and a must-read classic.”
Harry Ware, who works in the children’s department, said: “We feel reading is so important for children. It opens up so many doors for learning, enjoyment, escapism.
If a child can become a confident reader they are able to take more control over what they read and so gain more enjoyment from it.” Ms Ware said her favourite children’s book was Mr Majeika by the late Oxford author Humphrey Carpenter.
She said: “I chose Mr Majeika as it was really magical and made you use your imagination lots. I always wanted Mr Majeika to be my uncle.”
Regional manager Kate Stilborn said she had no doubt about the importance of reading with her own two children, and said it was a magical experience in this age of computer games and TV.
She said: “I still read aloud most nights and the eldest is now eight. “Apart from the obvious expansion of their vocabulary, improved general knowledge and the educational foundation that reading confidently can provide, their horizons have been broadened by reading and listening to stories from around the world, learning about people from societies and cultures and times different to ours.
“It encourages empathy and understanding of others.” Literature and languages department manager Heather Slater said: “As someone involved with recruitment, I would emphasise that literacy embraces writing as well as reading. The potential employee needs the ability to write a coherent letter of application and CV.”
Events assistant Hannah Chinnery said: “Building a love for reading at a young age is so important as all these things lead to later in life having a skill that is creative and invaluable to everyday living.”
Ms Chinnery said: “My favourite books when I was a child were the Lucy Daniels Animal Ark series.
“I was a massive fan of animals and I loved the fact that each story was based around a new animal.
“When I entered a bookshop those were the first books I went to and I’d spend hours trying to decide which one I wanted to read next.
“What was so great about the books being a series regularly released is that not only did I have the achievement of finishing a book and moving on to the next story but it allowed me to create my first mini-library which has now grown today to thousands.
And within that collection, I still own my beloved Animal Ark books.”
Rebecca Waiting, of the children’s department, went for Matilda by Roald Dahl.
She said: “I chose Matilda as I struggled with reading when I was very young.
It was one of the first books that I remember really enjoying and I have fond memories of talking to my friends about it. I don’t think I would have got so into reading if it wasn’t for Roald Dahl.”
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