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World Book Day: Author Nick Butterworth, who grew up in Romford, talks of the power of literacy

PUBLISHED: 10:00 02 March 2017

Author Nick Butterworth, at Crowlands Primary, School, talking about his books.  Nick is with Eliza Fergusson, seven, and Kai Reid, seven

Author Nick Butterworth, at Crowlands Primary, School, talking about his books. Nick is with Eliza Fergusson, seven, and Kai Reid, seven

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Best-selling author Nick Butterworth, who grew up in Romford, shares some thoughts on what reading means to him.

Percy the Park Keeper is one of Nick Butterworth's popular creationsPercy the Park Keeper is one of Nick Butterworth's popular creations

When my children were young I accidentally made an investment in their future. Every night, we would share a couple of bedtime stories.

Of course, I didn’t see it as an investment – I loved it! And so did they. This is clear from the way we carried on reading stories together long after they could both read fluently for themselves. We were simply reading for pleasure.

In some ways, this mirrors my own experience. It took a while for me to get going with reading. There were 50 children in my primary school class and no one seemed to notice that I was struggling.

Fortunately my mum made the same unintentional investment in my life as I did with my own children. She read to me. Lots! And when I graduated from Beatrix Potter and Noddy, she carried on reading ‘older’ stories, Aesop’s Fables, Alice in Wonderland, Kipling’s Just So Stories and Moby Dick.

Nick Butterworth reading to his granddaughter CleoNick Butterworth reading to his granddaughter Cleo

I was hooked! Still not a brilliant reader, I so wanted to know what this or that story was about, I continued on my own — we had lift off! The Famous Five. Tom Brown’s School Days. Then it happened…

Treasure Island! No book had ever engaged me like this one. It was as if I had sailed on the Hispaniola with Jim Hawkins. And when Jim returned, older and wiser, from his adventure, I too, felt a little older and wiser from the experience of reading this great tale.

I realised for the first time how a story can have the power to transport someone (me!) to another time and place.

Today, as I see my own children, now grown up, reading to their own, I see in this new generation, the same enjoyment.

And I see the same wonderful added extras — the accidental bonuses from this win/win activity. The unconscious development of vocabulary. The easy learning of language skills. And the infectious desire to read for themselves.

And, as if all this is not enough, there’s even more – an important bit more. Because every minute spent sharing in this way builds and reinforces family relationships. Time spent with a book can often lead to a very special kind of sharing.

In this safe environment, conversations easily turn to any and every subject under the sun.

It might be something arising out of the shared story. Or something completely different — a new joke or a song. It could be some achievement at school to be celebrated. Or there maybe a tale of woe that is better for being aired.

Such times are precious and to be enjoyed for themselves, but they are also invaluable in the way they promote a sense of identity and security in children. Such times are priceless. And they’re free!

Well almost free. The small price to pay is a little regular time spent daily with people you love. I cannot think of a better investment in any child’s future. Making time to read is a no-brainer!

First published as a blog on the Book Trust website.

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