“If you are going to get anywhere in life…you’ve got to read a lot of books.”
Those words were said by a man who, I think, was the greatest children’s author who ever lived. The man with magic in his pen was Roald Dahl – a British best selling author, widely recognised as “the greatest children’s storyteller of the 20th century.” Every year, during the month of September, the world of literature stops for a moment to remember Dahl and his literary genius, particularly on his birthday, September 13.
While many children, or teenagers (perhaps even some young parents) wouldn’t know his name, I’m willing to bet my favourite pair of pink stilettos that they would know the magical characters he created. The wise little Matilda – a girl whose strange, unexplained power of the mind conquers the evil Miss Trunchbull; Sophie, who befriends a Big Friendly Giant…or even little James, who ate his way into a positively giant peach, inside which he made friends with a myriad of talking insects.
Possibly the most popular masterpiece Dahl penned was the tale of poverty-stricken Charlie Bucket, who finds a rare golden ticket in his chocolate bar, earning him a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the world’s most marvellous chocolate factory…owned by the eclectic Mr Willy Wonka. Sound familiar? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – you probably never knew the multi-million dollar movie starring Johnny Depp was even based on a book, did you?
When I joined the library around eight years old, Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine was one of the first books I read; only because my primary school teacher had started reading The Twits, another Dahl classic, to us in class. I was enthralled by his humour, the way he made a world of make-believe sound perfectly probable: as though a little boy could actually stumble upon a conference of witches, as Luke Eversham does in The Witches. His books were unmissable in the rows at the library – bright, almost garish covers with the coolest illustrations. It was through turning the pages of Dahl’s novels, smelling that dusty, library scent, and making a doggy ear (terrible, I know) on the page where I stopped reading…then hiding the book in my bed so my mother wouldn’t catch me reading at night, after she put my light off. Today, at 25 years old, I still read every night…though I don’t have to hide my books 🙂 there is always a book in my car, my handbag and bedroom.
It pains me that some children of today might never know the magic of reading a book; iPads, iPods, tablets and cellphones have taken the place of a good old paperback. Some children will never know how reading a book like James and the Giant Peach, or The BFG, can take them to another world for a few hours every day. You don’t know what you’re missing! Today, grab a book from the local library (it’s down opposite the entrance to Clarke Bay, if you didn’t know) and sit down with your children – read it to them. Have fun, create different voices and bring the characters to life. Once your children are older, let them loose in the beautiful world of literature. That’s what my dad did for me and, today the bug still hasn’t left: I still visit the library once a week. My vocabulary, and journalistic career, is based on the foundation of people like Dahl, Enid Blyton, Francine Rivers and Carolyne Keene (she created girl detective Nancy Drew).
Open a book…change your world!
P.S. – Happy birthday, Mr Roald Dahl 🙂