The Importance of Reading Books With Our Children

I was recently re-united with my children’s extensive book collection. So what, I can hear you saying.

Okay, so you should know I pretty much harassed my in-laws back in Nigeria every time someone was coming my way so that I could get these back. I’m certain everyone was a bit tired of the requests but I have too polite a family for anyone to say anything.

We disappeared from Nigeria in 2015 after living there for just under a year and half. So, without a planned exit, we left a LOT of our stuff back there. You know the feeling, when you’re looking for things and know you have it but can’t bring yourself to buy it again, it can drive you nuts. Well, it drove me nuts anyway.

So finally, almost 2 years later after we moved to London, a friend was able to bring the lot. So that’s where I am… reunited with my vast collection of books. And there you are, wondering what the…

When I got these back, it was like going through years of memories, moments and experiences my girls and I shared in reading endless stories.

You see, books are not just books to me… to us. They are a way of communicating with my children. With books, we’ve introduced the concept of bullying, sharing, loneliness, and skin colour. With books, we’ve been able to talk about difficult subjects without making it about them.

My daughter’s concept of a bully was defined in a book called “Me and My Dragon” because it featured a bully who was incidentally a chubby boy with a baseball cap on. I remember reading it once and it sparked a conversation about what is a bully. To this day, when we’ve spoken about someone doing something bullying, my daughter protests, “but he isn’t wearing a baseball cap”!

The day identity and my daughter’s skin colour came up one day after school, I swiftly went online and ordered just about 20 books that talk about being mixed, being different, featuring brown skin characters or just about being a girl and being proud of who you are. I was not about to raise a child who was confused or ashamed about who she is and with media and the majority of people she encounters featuring white skin, we knew we needed to be proactive in discussing this important topic with her.

The books were all about being positive about who you are. For my DD to see a little girl featured in the story of Little Red Riding Hood with brown skin and curly hair, she couldn’t hide her excitement. “She looks like me!”, she’d say.

Within three weeks of reading these books, I could see a change in how my daughter talked about and discussed her own identity.

You see, for us, books are instruments. They are windows into important conversations and topics that I know will come up. As our children get older, we’ll inevitably encounter discussions about bodies, sexuality, death, religion, cyber bullying and jealousy, amongst other things.  Without books to turn to, these topics can become abstract. Throw in a protagonist who’s going through it and you have yourself an ‘in’.

Indeed books have already introduced precious memories as our children have grown. We paged through the book “Going on a Bear Hunt” and relived days gone by when our nearly 6 year old was our only child and my hubby and I used to act out the story finishing off with an undercover cave where we’d hide from the bear.

So, today, I am happy to be reunited with my collection. Thanks to my in-laws for putting up with me, I’m content.

Perhaps it was only through missing them that I realised their value. I would encourage every parent, be careful what you’re giving away. I know we can’t keep all the rubbish we collect from our children’s childhoods and by no means am I a hoarder. The day will come when I’ll have to go through their books but hopefully I’ll know these aren’t just pieces of paper we read every night but memories we’ll want to cherish.

For a list of books about multicultural families or being mixed race, visit Colours of Us.

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