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Reading with my niece

August 26, 2014

One of my greatest joys is watching my niece become a reader. She is becoming a very competent reader and to my absolute delight a writer. She already takes great pleasure in a new notebook and sharp pencil to write with (Is this genetics or example?). She writes stories incessantly using more and more vocabulary. I should not have been thrilled when I was told to do something immediately instead of now (precocious child) but even as I rebuked her, inside I glowed at her increasing fluency.

I love sharing favourite authors with her. We’ve both loved Shirley Hughes Alfie books for years. Now whenever she sees a Shirley Hughes illustration there is a shout of that’s the Alfie Lady. We’ve both enjoyed Paddington especially the audio version read by the superlative Stephen Fry.

More recently I’ve introduced her to Dorothy Edwards My Naughty Little Sister. They are very old fashioned but my niece adores them. Whenever she has a sleepover at my parents they are her bedtime story of choice. The Shirley Hughes illustrations attracted her and then the simple stories about timeless small things that matter to a small person engaged her and that was it.

This evening I read her a bedtime story – or six and inspired by our toy farm being rescued from the loft for big niece – as she must henceforth be known to play with; (my brother, sister and I passed many a happy hour with that,) I renewed my acquaintance with another childhood favourite Jane Pilgrim’s Blackberry Farm. They are beautifully illustrated but they were old fashioned when I was small and now they are almost obsolete. However they are cosy and the characters appealed to her. I confess I still love Naughty George the kitten.

Please don’t think she only gets old books to read. We love Katie Morag, anything by Julia Donaldson or Mick Inkpen. Mog is a much loved friend – Big niece can read Goodbye Mog with equinamity. I cannot I still dissolve into floods of tears at the mere thought of Mog going to sleep forever. The Blue Kangaroo books enthralled us both and there’s the ubiquitous Charlie and Lola. There’s a reason I tell big niece she is my favouritest and best.

I think next time I might introduce big niece to Milly Molly Mandy and I’m looking forward to producing Dog Friday (Hilary Mackay), Fantastic Mr Fox, the Famous Five and The Secret Island over the next year. Soon I can start her on Mallory Towers and hopefully foster an interest in the school story.

I am looking forward to the joy of introducing the newly acquired small niece to Miffy, Spot and Maisie Mouse. However at three weeks old although she is read to she is currently taking no interest in characters or narrative. Sad but true. Big niece informed me she read her sister Dear Zoo but she did not stop crying. Big niece feels this shows a lamentable lack of taste.

A month or so ago big niece was spotted descending the stairs with her nose firmly buried in a picture book. My SiL remonstrated with her and said with some asperity “If you’re not careful you’ll turn out just like your auntie.” Big niece beamed and said ” Good she’s my favourite.”

I think my work is done.


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  1. katherinea permalink


  2. Dorian permalink

    My SiL remonstrated with her and said with some asperity “If you’re not careful you’ll turn out just like your auntie.” Big niece beamed and said ” Good she’s my favourite.”


    Also, you have reminded me that I, too, loved the “Naughty Little Sister” books, and must see if I can find copies for my own Senior Niece, who is getting to an age to enjoy them.

  3. I remember Blackberry Farm!

    Your niece has great taste in books and aunties 🙂

  4. I’ve enjoyed sharing many of those mentioned with my granddaughter. She’s been reading Michael Morpurgo (my favourite!) on her own for a couple of years now but still enjoys sitting down with me to be ‘read to’. Her choice this summer was ‘Return to Shangri-La’. Like your big niece she writes too and has an amazing vocabulary……. and can draw anyone into an argument when it suits her to play for time….. a 10 year old with considerable attitude! A wonderful way to pass time with your niece!

  5. Rosie H permalink

    Brilliant work, Auntie! I loved Blackberry Farm too, especially the Nibble family. I found a couple in a charity shop for J when she’s a bit older.

    J tries to read her books herself already (and loves telling me the stories of the ones she remembers well enough), and one of her favourite things at the moment is “reading” to her toys. We talk about the day at bedtime, and today almost all she said was about the denouement of Emily Gravett’s The Odd Egg (no spoilers, just in case you haven’t read it!), which we acquired today.

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