When my oldest daughter was little, we bought her the Harry Potter audio cd’s read by the wonderful Stephen Fry. She listened to them over and over again, night after night until she was word perfect.
That Christmas she asked for a ‘real wand that can actually do proper magic’ from Santa.
Sadly, we were not able to comply, which broke my heart a tiny bit.
What was wonderful though was that through reading, her belief in magic was strong. Reading introduced her to things and ideas and worlds and beliefs and places that she had no hope of getting to any other way than through the pages of a book, but those things were as real to her as milk and hula hoops and silver shoes. It was just as likely that she would get one on her Christmas list as the other, and I loved that.
For me, that is one of the greatest gifts that reading gives children. It makes magic tangible and real to them.
The wonderful thing is that when we are children, our worlds are literally cram, bang full of possibility. We have such a small experience of reality that pretty much everything seems like magic, and all magic is for real. It is as magical to find out that red wellingtons with rainbows on the side exist as it is to believe that a unicorn might be grazing in the garden right now. If one is possible, and it is, it surely proves the other is possible too?
When I was little I had a book called Five Dolls in a House by Helen Clare. Sadly it is out of print now, but I still have my childhood copy, battered and fragile and one of my most cherished possessions.
That book was magic to me. In it, a girl called Elizabeth could think herself small, and walk up to the front door of her nursery dolls’ house and go inside. Once inside she could have all kinds of splendid, magical and utterly real adventures with the dolls who lived there.
I longed, absolutely longed for that to happen to me. For years I believed it could and would happen to me. I used to pray every night that the dolls in my own dolls’ house would come alive and let me have adventures with them.
When it didn’t happen I blamed it on the fact that my parents hadn’t bought me a close fronted dolls’ house. It could be the only reason for the failure. It never occurred to me that the magic I read about could not be real.
It still doesn’t.