I started school in 1956 (age five, a year younger than the compulsory age), and still remember many of the reading material I had at home. The first bought for me and my sister (older by two years) were Brit published comics bought in the town near our Waikato dairy farm in Whangarata – Jack and Jill and Playhour.
We had many titles from the Little Golden Books series of course. Susie’s New Stove, The Sweet Potato Vine, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and many more. They were a wondrous mix of fiction fantasy, folktales and practical.
I progressed to Enid Blyton’s Noddy series – Noddy Goes to Toyland being the first title. We were given a number of the series’ titles, before moving on to Blyton’s others – The Secret Seven and then the Famous Five.
Laura Lee Hope’s (a pseudonym) Bobbsey Twins series were my first US books, and I remember that even as an eight-year old, the stereotypical portrayal of Nanny made me feel uncomfortable – my first discovery of blatant racism in children’s literature.
That Enid Blyton later became a target of criticism for racism in her children’s books was a surprise. I had never considered her portrayal of many villains as “dark’ or ‘swarthy’ being anything other than… well, maybe a bit grubby, as in lacking home facilities for washing. Such is the naivety of childhood. And the charge that she portrayed ‘golliwogs’ as prejudiced stereotypes, by making them car thieves? That was just wrong (unless it was done in one of the titles I never got to read). In the book I read that included car thieves, it was a gang of goblins who stole cars from Mister Golly’s car yard!
Other childhood reading included books from our family treasure trove – the big cupboard in Nanny’s (my maternal grandmother’s) cupboard in a room off her kitchen. I remembering enjoying The Adventures of Blinky Bill (Australia), Hutu and Kawa (New Zealand), The Five Chinese Brothers (a US publication, also charged with racism), and The Magic Pudding (Australia). Also I at last found The Magic Faraway Tree by Blyton.
A generation later, I found The Magic Puppet Pudding – a marionette puppet show. We watched and recorded it from the television. Since then, The Magic Pudding has been recreated as an animation movie – and (I M O) the characters are not as endearing as in the much shorter marionette version.
(I’m still looking for the marionette version – one song is an occasional ear-worm:
“I’ve got a stick, I’ve got a stick, I’ve got a stick to walk with.
I’ve got a mind for thinking, and I’ve got a voice for talking.”)
The reason I felt like telling about my childhood books is the simple truth that without a broad range of books in the family home, young children can miss out of gaining a love of reading for pleasure. So many educators support this – but unfortunately for many, books are beyond the budget.
Here in New Zealand we have a number of programmes to get books into homes.
Duffy Books in Homes began in 1994, and continues to place books in children’s homes for which the cost may be prohibitive.
This is a major contribution to literacy achievement for many children, and you can donate at https://www.duffybooksinhomes.com/donate/
Storytime Foundation delivers “Books for Babies” in a programme available in Auckland, Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Tairawhiti, Hawkes Bay, Taranaki and Canterbury. To date (as at 26 June 2020) they have delivered over 146,000 books, to over 40,000 high need families with new born children. Donations are accepted through GiveALittle, at https://givealittle.co.nz/donate/org/booksforbabes
Make a difference in your own community.
Find a local charitable foundation or trust, and donate now.