Monday, 23 April 2012

You Can't Cuddle a Kindle

You Can’t Cuddle a Kindle.

There was a teacher who would wander out to supervise playtime in the school playground hugging a book to her chest. Sometimes she would walk into the classroom like that, arms wrapped tightly across her body hugging the book as though it was a most precious child. She would say “I’ve got such a lovely story here. Don’t you want to know what it is?” and then eyes merry and bright, she would tease by just showing a tiny part of the cover – a quick flash or a small corner.

I knew a librarian who did the same, selecting a book or several books as though they were exciting treasures, or with all the excited expectation of a child selecting sweets from a shelf to hoard and enjoy later.

They were, inevitably, always surrounded by children eager to know more and to share the excitement. The teacher and librarian would settle down, making a show of wriggling to get comfortable, then very slowly open the book and begin to read. The books they chose were always varied - stories, facts, picture books, pop-up books; books which opened up the world of ideas and imagination. They encouraged the children to find books for them to read and for the child to read for themselves. They were developing a love of reading and a love of books.

There are a great many pleasures to owning or reading a book, quite apart from exploring and enjoying its contents. The pleasure of the title, some so enticing and intriguing, as tantalising as a riddle; the design of the cover, the tactile pleasure of holding the book in your hand feeling the texture of the cover the thickness of the paper and the beauty of the neat rows of type covering each page. The smell of a new book opened only by you and the wonderful cocktail of smells from an old book, opened and read by so many other people and passed on.  Can the solitude of down loading a book onto a Kindle compare with the pleasure of browsing a book shop or library with so many tempting books, so many colours so many pictures?

Books can provide insights into worlds you could never visit, into situations and lives you could never experience,explore to the ideas of people you could never meet. They can educate, guide, help and encourage and they can also provide a way to escape. If you are buried in a book you forget the loneliness, sorrow or worry that occupies your mind.

By encouraging a love of books and a love of reading in a child, and you can never really begin too early, you are passing on a great gift that will last a lifetime. The Kindle is capable of holding many, many books on one small tablet, perfect for travelling. But you can’t cuddle a Kindle; it doesn’t have that seductive allure of a book, especially a picture book, and the tactile pleasure of turning real pages.

I have a childlike love of picture books and will look at the illustrations again and again after the book has been read. If a book contains photographs I will look at all the photos before I begin to read, finding them by looking for the change of colour on the page edge. E- Books also have the magic of pictures, but not, for me, the pure pleasure of settling down, with a book on lap, newly opened with the weight of unread pages on the right hand, the pleasure of slowly reading through the pages so that the weight changes from right to left, and the final mixture of satisfaction, pleasure and sadness as I close the back cover on the completed book.

As a parent or grandparent, settling with a child on lap to read together, to share a book where you both hold and turn the pages back and forth is such a joy. Can you really replicate that by looking at the small tablet of an e-book?

The founder of Fairy Tale Children's Furniture, Zandra Johnson is a passionate advocate of imaginative play for children. Studies reveal free time spent playing make-believe helps children develop critical cognitive skills. Fairytale Furniture helps build those skills through imaginative play. Download your free guide to Imaginative Play at FAIRYTALECHILDRENSFURNITURE.CO.UK