Thursday, 2 June 2011

Foxgloves - and a love of reading

I took these photographs at the edge of the neighbour's field in front of our house. There are 100s of Foxgloves flowering and they look just stunning.

Foxgloves and Elder.

Below, Foxgloves and Red Campion.

The view across the valley.

Foxglove, foxglove,
What do you see?
The cool green woodland,
The fat velvet bee,
Hey Mr Bumble,
There's honey here for thee.

Foxglove, foxglove,
What see you now?
The soft summer moonlight,
On bracken, grass and bough,
And all the fairies dancing,
As only they know how.

Cecily Mary Barker.

I know that little rhyme off by heart. I should do, as I read it often enough to my girls when they were "smalls". Whilst she was still in her Moses basket, our eldest daughter had short little baby books read to her, and cloth books and bright cards propped along the side of the crib so she see them and have her mind stimulated. By the time she was ten months old, she was demanding 4 little stories each night at bedtime. And yes, I DO mean DEMANDING as she began to speak aged 7 months (her first proper word was "pretty"!) and by 10 months she knew the word "MORE" and used it! Her brother and sister were also read to regularly - oh we had some WONDERFUL childrens' books, and some I can't bear to part with - The Little Rocking Horse, all the Cecily Mary Barker Flower Fairy books, the Brambley Hedge books and good old-fashioned books like the Dr Doolittle series, the Borrowers series, Little House on the Prairie, the C S Lewis series and so on. I was still reading to them when they were ten and had been reading for themselves for years. They loved the comforting aspect of being read to, and being close to mum at bedtime.

You can imagine that I read with horror in the Daily Mail that 3 in 10 children live in households with no books. Perhaps we should sensibly read this with a grain or two of salt to hand over the actual figures, as the Mail is well known for exaggeration, but even so . . . Apparently, when one class in London was each asked to bring in a book to discuss, one 9 year old boy brought in the Argos catalogue, as it was the only "book" in the house. How sad that this seems to be the norm for many families. How those children are missing out on improving their concentration, reading skills, spelling, comprehension, knowledge - and those are just the practical skills - think of what wonderful adventures they are missing, and the delight of the escapism of being lost in a story, and having "friends" inside the covers of a book. A book develops imagination, empathic skills, emotions, and brings such pleasure. I know households where there are no books - and whilst I will resist the temptation to judge, there is a strong degree of ignorance. That is different to a lack of intelligence, but it has as great an impact. I tried to distract a fretful child who once came to visit, by producing a book on animals, but he just could not concentrate for a moment and had no idea even how to handle a book. Another boy of 14 could barely read a sentence in a newspaper without help. That made me very sad and I did try to improve his reading whilst we were - briefly - in touch.

The Education Secretary wants children to read 50 books a year. I'm not holding my breath on that one . . .


  1. I think 50 books a year would be excellent; worlds are opened to readers of any age. As a librarian, reader and writer, I am with you on this.

  2. Those foxgloves are stunning! I think this has been the best year for foxgloves in a long time.

    You are absolutely right about the importance of books for babies and young children. There is a good early literacy scheme, supporting parents as well as children, that runs through Sure Start. I only hope that the cuts will not do away with this support for disadvantaged children.

  3. Glorious foxgloves!
    I would hate not to have books. My family was quite hard up when we were little, but I was given books by my Mums younger brother, 10 years older than me. I didnt realise at the time I was reading books way beyond my age group, but I had a volcabulary to match.

  4. You are on to my favourite hobby horse here. As a teacher of many years standing - most of them spent in inner city schools with children of very low reading ability I feel most strongly that reading should start early - at home - instilling the love of books. Many children who come to school unable to even hold a pencil comes from homes where there is absolutely no reading matter. Often parents need educating on the importance of books - if you have never seen one, never looked up even the simplest piece of information, how can you ever expect to enjoy reading?
    I will get off my hobby horse now!

  5. Thank you for your comments. Perhaps when we move I may volunteer to help children with their reading at a local school (subject to all the mauling tests required of course).

  6. I think foxgloves may be my most favourite flower in the whole world. Beautiful photos. Thanks BB.

    I share your concern and opinion on books and reading and the benefits it brings to children and adults alike.

    great post!

  7. Oh, The Borrowers! My Mother thought that was an inspired series--I think I was old enough to read them for myself. Although knowing better, I pretended that a similar family might be lodged beneath the apricot tree in my grandfather's garden.