Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved books. At bedtime she loved to snuggle up with her raggedy soft elephant, Elly, listening in wonder as her mum brought stories and characters to life with the magic of her voice. All across the small island they lived on, children were falling asleep to the sound of stories. But this little girl couldn’t possibly sleep when there were such wonderful adventures to be had and questions to be answered.
The little girl loved books but soon only one or two stories at bedtime just wasn’t enough. Night after night the little girl’s mum patiently read story after story to try and lull her daughter to sleep; night after night the little girl was still awake late in the evening, pleading for more. The little girl’s mum decided there was only one thing to do: she began to teach her daughter to read.
The little girl was too young to go to school yet but she quickly learned her letters and words. She started with Spot the Dog, moved on to the Ladybird fairy tales (her particular favourites being The Elves and the Shoemaker, and The Enormous Turnip) and before long, she was ready to try something even more tricky.
One warm, summer evening, as the honeysuckle breathed its scent into the lazy air, the little girl sat on the front doorstep of her house, waving hello to passersby as she practised and practised reading The Giant Jam Sandwich. When she could read it aloud without making too many mistakes, she went inside and excitedly read it to her mum. The little girl’s mum was overjoyed and very proud of her daughter, for she was a bookworm too. As the little girl grew up, she caught criminals with The Famous Five; solved mysteries with Nancy Drew; went on epic journeys with Frodo Baggins; and always shared her adventures with her mum.
The little girl eventually grew up to become a woman and sailed across the Irish Sea to the place she would call home for many years. The woman spoke to her mum every day, and in each conversation they regaled each other with stories of books they had read.
Much to her mum’s delight, the woman eventually had her own daughter. She would snuggle up at bedtime with her soft bear, Jingly Ted, listening in wonder as the woman brought characters and stories to life through the magic of her voice. Their favourite times were when Nanny, as the woman’s mum became known, came to visit and the three would cuddle up together for bedtime stories.
A baby brother joined the family and when Nanny came to visit them, their story times were filled with even more love. The little girl was too young to read but she remembered the words she heard and whispered them to herself when she was tucked up in bed after story time ended.
And then, Something Very Bad Happened.
The little girl didn’t understand why the woman lost her love of books or why her Nanny didn’t come to visit her little brother and her any more. The woman didn’t smile any more and the little girl was sad. One day, the little girl watched as the woman stared, unseeing, out of the window as she fed her baby brother. She hopped up on the sofa next to them and gave the woman her favourite Jingly Ted. She stroked her baby brother’s head and he watched her, wide-eyed, as she opened her favourite book, Owl Babies, and spoke the words she had heard the woman speak to them.
At first she was confused, as the woman began to cry. The woman kissed her head and told her they were happy tears so the little girl told the story again the next day. And the next. She told the woman and the baby the stories of the Owl Babies every day until her mum’s smile came back.
One night, the little girl couldn’t sleep so she padded quietly into her mum and dad’s room, where she was happy to find the woman reading a book in bed, just like before she lost her smile and found it again. The girl snuggled up with her soft bear Jingly Ted and listened as her mum soothed her to sleep with the magic of her voice.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved books. This love was the best gift her mum could have given her, and one she passes on to her children today. And of course, dear bookworm, she shares this gift with you now.
In loving memory of my favourite bookworm, my mum xxx