In My Own Time

29th July 2011 at 01:00
Ken Macintosh, Scottish Labour education spokesman


Politics and a young family ensure my only regular reading is to my children at bedtime, but children's literature has never been better: creative, funny, observant, even inspiring.

The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers tells of a boy who eats books and becomes smarter. It has an enjoyable visual ending. Other favourites are Judith Kerr's The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs by Giles Andreae and Russell Ayto. For slightly older children I was taken by Scottish writer Lari Don's First Aid for Fairies and Other Fabled Beasts.

With so many creative books out there, why am I so often disappointed by those my kids bring home from school? They may be safe, but they can be uninspiring and unimaginative. Not all parents approve of Andy McNab or Anthony Horowitz, but if they encourage your child to read rather than switch on the PlayStation, should they not be an option?

Having criticised some teachers' choices, I should rebalance things by saying one of the best books given out by schools - in East Renfrewshire at least - is You Choose by Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt.

Not all old favourites wear well. Fairytales of beautiful princesses and handsome princes should worry my socialist conscience, but it is Enid Blyton's prudish and judgmental moralising which grates and makes me worry about what I read as a child. There are recent novels to avoid, too, such as Katie Price's Perfect Ponies - yes, that Katie Price. The stereotypes and predictable plotting match expectations.

My final choice, Debi Gliori's Mr Bear Babysits, is a favourite, probably because it's about a grumpy dad. When the incompetent Mr Bear loses it, the kids obediently trot off to bed. If only.

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