August 31, 2016 - Comments Off on Post Number One by Sarah Odedina, Editor-in-Chief
What is it about stories that is so captivating? Why do we find ourselves enraptured or transfixed by an arrangement of words that conjures up images around some characters and a narrative?
I think that since time immemorial people have been telling one another stories – stories that entertain, educate, enlighten. Stories that give meaning to life and help us understand our place in the world.
I also think that when someone gets bitten by the reading bug, it’s because of a visceral relationship with stories that incorporates all these layers of meaning and functionality and at the same time sets them sailing on a sea of adventures so that – while they’re not physically undertaking those journeys – they’re mentally, emotionally and imaginatively swashbuckling with the best of them.
When you witness a toddler pointing at a dog in a board book and barking before they can even say ‘dog’, they’re using their imaginative powers to give life to an image and this is the start of a lifetime of empathetic reading. This is the beginning of a solitary activity that takes a person out into the world in the most wonderful way. This is the start of books opening doors and encouraging understanding. This is the beginning of stories creating community for an individual, for it is in sharing stories – family stories, local community stories, political stories – that we start to come together as a group.
Books are literally portals to other worlds – the act of reading is an act of alchemy, as pages of words strung together are transformed in the reader’s mind into life-sustaining narratives. My own love of stories really ignited when I read the Laura Ingalls Wilder stories about life in a cabin somewhere in the middle of America. I still remember the profound longing I had for their life; the snow piling up outside the house and the bears stalking their father when he was out hunting and fishing in the creek. From there, the next books I remember reading with absolute clarity were Robinson Crusoe, with whom I shared a desert island and marvelled at the footprints in the sand, relieved to have company after being marooned (beautiful and tropical though the island was in my imagination), and then the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis – and how I wished my wardrobe could give me such incredible experiences.
I remain an avid reader with a taste for adventure and a desire for insight into other people’s lives – some I’d love to lead, and others I’m enriched and informed by. Places I’d love to go, and others I’d fear and know that those who live there are also in fear. Relationships that offer romance and passion and loyalty and, above all, hope.
As an adult, I continue to read books for children not only for work but also for pleasure. I contend that Holes by Louis Sachar is one of the finest novels written by an American author, while The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is a lyrical and layered novel of subtle sophistication that just happens to have a child protagonist. Not to appreciate the skill and ability of both these authors writing for young readers is to allow a false categorisation of literature with a hierarchy that places adult literature higher up the ranking than children’s literature purely because it’s for adults. Without children’s literature, we have illiterate people. Without a child barking with a dog in a board book, or wondering how to survive on fallen coconuts alone, we haven’t ignited that flame that burns to share a story. This is the beginning.