I am holding "The Christopher Robin Storybook +' by AA Milne and EH Shepard that my mother read to me when I was very young. Looking at it now, I realise that she bought the 1963 edition in Penang, Malaysia, where I was born. The paper dust jacket is torn, covered in plastic and taped onto the rough, red hardcover in her librarian's attempt to protect it. There is a story about my mother here in itself, and I feel tears burning the back of my eyes.
Flipping through the pages I am transported to the bedroom of my childhood back in Western Sydney, with bunk beds for us three girls squashed into the small room of our fibro house. My mother is sitting beside my bed and reading to me. It's the poems that mesmerize and roll around in my head - about bears and squares and Alice at Buckingham Palace. I remember how this felt like a link to another world, and also a link to my mother's London childhood. A childhood, I know, that was interrupted by war and evacuation from her home to live with strangers in the country. I wonder if she found comfort in these stories then? (It was first published in 1929 - so quite likely.)
This past Christmas I am given a small, gold cloud necklace and my first thought is "tut-tut, it looks like rain' and Winnie the Pooh pretending to be a cloud to trick the bees, in the first story of the book.
Earlier today, walking across glossy floor tiles in a glitzy shopping mall, I catch myself daring the bears to 'look how I'm walking in all of the squares.'
The powerful effect of reading to a child stays with them forever. Not just in terms of literacy and learning, but of these intangibles, these emotional bonds, and connections across time and space. Of shared language and experience. This is why I am a supporter of International Read To Me Day - will you join me?