Monday, 30 March 2015

When "Books are the most constant of friends...and the wisest of counselors..."

"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers." So said Charles William Eliot in his The Happy Life, 1896.

That's one of my favourite quotes because I've always loved the idea of stories that are a kind of "therapy" and not just an entertainment or distraction or means of obtaining information.

Stories can take you out of yourself and transport you into the worlds and thoughts and emotions of others. Through stories the youngest of readers can absorb values and comforts and discover how to think and see truths for themselves. Step into the right story, the right book at the right time and when you step out again you'll have almost imperceptibly acquired a just-for-you 'gift' that will stay with you long after you've read the last sentence or put the book down.

The kind of 'gift' I'm talking about is a realisation, a resolution or a quiet comfort or certainty that makes life suddenly feel a tiny bit different or better or happier or hopeful. And for children as much a adults that is a gift that is especially needed at times of anxiety or change or loss or sadness. The right stories, as the "quietest and most constant of friends" can offer children that gift in a indirect, subtle and cheerful way that won't make them feel the adult world is trying to intrude and bombard them with answers that they can't take in.

The intention of The Forever Tree and Stories for Feelings is that they become books for children with those kinds of gifts. A shared reading of them between a parent (or other adult) and child that enables a gentle and non-frightening way of opening up to nurturing ideas - helping children explore emotions, feelings, thoughts and situations they may be going through. Or just a way to understand themselves or others. They can be revisited by the child alone or shared again - their messages still there whenever they are needed