Ian Whybrow

…coming soon…

Booktime! Start a conversation with your kids.

September 19, 2008 - Filed under: Blog - Comments (4)

I’m delighted to hear that one of my books – “Harry and the Dinosaurs Go to School” – has been selected by the charity Booktrust to be distributed to every child in the UK (except in Wales, where Harry has a presence in classrooms already, only under the Welsh name of Owain in Welsh-language editions.) Even as I write pantechnicons* are rolling down the highways and byeways, piled high with blue bookbags and teacher-packs ready for delivery. (*Nice to have an excuse to employ pantechnicon. Hope I’ve got the spelling right.)

The publication of the best part of a million books for this initiative, and their distribution, are sponsored by Pearson (who own Puffin, among other distinguished cultural properties) and by government grant, as well as by Booktrust, under a scheme called Booktime. The idea is to make sure that every child starting school in Britain actually owns at least one book and that teachers will give it a kick-start by introducing it in class along with all sorts of related games and fun activities before it goes home in a bookbag – along with a smashing little book of verse. The hope is to encourage parents to read more with their children.

Not surprisingly, and depressingly, what with the break-up of the traditional family, the habit of placing tvs and computers in children’s bedrooms, and increasing demands on parents to get out and make a living , etc, fewer parents are making reading with their kids a priority.

That strikes me as a shame bordering on criminal neglect. I heard Robert Winston telling a “Child of Our Time” audience recently that as many as 80 per cent of parents NEVER have a conversation with their kids. Sure, they tell them what to do and ask them a few functional questions about where they’ve been, etc – but they never actually discuss things on an intimate level. When you settle down together with a book, you can’t avoid conversation. It just happens naturally. Read with him or her and the youngster gets at least three invaluable gifts- all for free; contact, conversation and confidence. And we all know that children who are confident readers do better not just in school, but in adult life than those who don’t have a reading habit.

So I thought I’d celebrate Booktime and give the scheme a little plug and take the opportunity to get back into my still hopelessly inadequate website. It has languished untended for far too long.