“Books played a large part in my childhood”

This letter sent to the Star was written by CM Langan, Sheffield, S8

Monday, 16th March 2020, 7:01 am
Updated Monday, 16th March 2020, 7:02 am

The editor’s column on Friday, March 6, focused upon the world of children’s books, especially those that brought joy to so many generations of kids.

Books played a large part in my childhood. If I wasn’t playing in the parks or woods (which never seemed to hold any threats or require adult accompaniment in those days), or playing on my red Raleigh bike (which was a present for my 10th birthday in 1971, a mere £20 from Cole Brothers), I would always have my nose in a book.

Once I’d mastered Janet and John and Peter and Jane, there was no stopping me.

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My favourite reads included the Mary Plain series, the Runaway Summer by Nina Bawden, My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards, Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr, and The Naughtiest Girl in the School, and the Secret Seven by Enid Blyton.

Funnily enough, I never really got into the classics like The Wind in the Willows, The Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings, although my brother devoured them.

In my first year at primary school, the teacher would always round off our day with storytime, some of the offerings including Paddington Bear and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Once she made a gross error of judgement by deciding to read out a story called The Wee, Wee Woman which I later learnt was penned in the 1920s and was clearly aimed at children considerably more refined than the ones in my class as the story began, “Once upon a time, there was a wee, wee woman, who lived all alone in a wee, wee house. One night this wee, wee woman lighted her wee, wee candle, crept softly up her wee, wee stairs, got into her wee, wee bed”, and so it continued.

Try telling that one to the average class of seven to eight-year-olds without causing hysterics. Believe me, our class was no exception.

One of the lads offered his verdict that if she, her house and everything in it were made of wee wee, then no wonder she lived alone as there’d be such a whiff that no one would want to go anywhere near her!

The teacher wasn’t impressed and needless to say, that book never saw the light of day again.

Oh, those childhood memories and so many of them revolving around books, in any shape or form. Yes, even The Wee, Wee Woman!

What they all had in common was an innocence which is so endangered now as technology consumes both our world and that of our children.

Don’t tell me that anything else could take you to another world, with only your imagination required, as a book can. Let them remain a part of our children’s worlds at all costs.