Owen loves books – and Waterstone’s

Owen browses in Waterstone's Amersham

I love books. So I’m thrilled that Owen seems to be following in my footsteps.

He had a wonderful time today in Waterstone’s in Amersham. He made straight for the Mr Men and Little Miss books – his current favourites, along with Roald Dahl. He’d have happily stayed for hours.

Books are so important to children and adults. They bring to life the pleasure of the story, often with added impact of illustration. (Anyone who has enjoyed a Julia Donaldson story will acknowledge how much Axel Scheffler‘s illustrations bring the tales to life.) And part of the joy of books is returning to a personal favourite, time and time again.

As I watched Owen browsing the shelves at Waterstone’s today, I pondered again the future of the printed book. You might think that electronic, or e-books, are bound to replace their printed predecessors. Yet I’m not so sure. The printed book remains a thing of beauty – to be read, treasured, lent and re-read. You can flick quickly to an earlier page or illustration. The book itself is relative cheap and doesn’t rely on expensive hardware. It never runs out of battery, and can be read when you’re on a plane that’s taking off. (And in the bath – I’ve not yet been brave enough to read on my iPad in the bath.)

There’s certainly a place for e-books. I’m always pleased to have one with me on the iPad if I’ve nothing else to read on a train. But never assume that new technology will always sweep aside what went before it. The internet hasn’t replaced television, which didn’t replace radio, which didn’t vanquish newspapers. Cinema is still going strong despite TV, DVD and the internet. All have their unique strengths.

But parents still have a crucial role to play in helping printed books to flourish. We’ve read to Owen since he was a baby. (In fact, I made up stories to tell ‘him’ when Karen was pregnant: storytelling to a ‘bump’!) We’ve read to him every night for three years. We each choose a book at bedtime. It’s no wonder he likes books!

It has encouraged him to start to read far earlier than he would otherwise have done. It means that reading won’t be a blank page when he starts school proper in September. It’s one of the greatest gifts we could have given him.

PS: for a brand based on literacy, Waterstone’s seems very confused about its name. It uses Waterstone’s (which must be right, as it was named after its founder, Tim Waterstone) and Waterstones…

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