Books Don’t Harm Kids, They Arm Them

“Books don’t harm kids, they arm them.” – Mem Fox

I popped into The Little Bookroom on Degraves Street in Melbourne yesterday afternoon. Of course, now I’ve legitimately got a reason to spend quite a bit of time scouring the shelves. I just love the little store – and I would have been mad about it as a child.

I was mad about books as a youngster. Still am. And it’s a love I hope my little man inherits. I read him a story every day. Many people would say it’s a waste of time. Many people would assume he doesn’t understand any part of it. But I know that with each story being read his language is developing. His mind and imagination are expanding. He’s becoming more empathetic, more understanding, more curious. And it’s a beautiful part of my day, one of my favourites, sitting with him and reading.

“The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading. It isn’t achieved by the book alone, nor by the child alone, nor by the adult who’s reading aloud—it’s the relationship winding between all three, bringing them together in easy harmony.”  ― Mem Fox, Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever

When I was two years old, I had already memorised my favourite book, The Little Red Caboose. I never struggled with reading, not for a single moment. I know the confidence that comes from being able to read and communicate well. It’s a basic skill I believe all children should have – and it’s not hard for them to have, all we need to do is read to them. Five minutes a day. To change their lives forever.

And so, because I love books, and because I’m armoured with all the reasons as to why reading is so beneficial for children (if you need the reasons, check out Mem Fox’s Reading Magic), I can’t stop buying them for O. I’ve gone a little mad. But I think it’s more than worth it.

photo copy 3

Vader's Little Princess

Transfixed By A Paragraph.

Jack Kerouac in NYC

I’ve always strongly believed in the power of words. I decided to be a writer when I was six years old – I still have the notebook I wrote those words in. To me, there is a certain magic in words. A certain rhythm. I can be transfixed by a paragraph, by a passage, by an advertising slogan.

I love to write. It’s probably the only thing that really calms me. The only action that makes my mind stop swirling and allows me to free-pour out of my brain. It’s me, at my most natural.

I simply cannot live without words. Words, and the many varieties they come in, are the first thing I turn to whenever I am confused, happy, angry, muddled, pensive, upset, curious…they are like my breath, like my heartbeat; pretty impossible to live without.

And much like writing, reading, also in its many forms, is something that I find difficult to abstain from. Sarah Jessica Parker’s character in Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw, once said in an episode, “When I first moved to the city, I would sometimes buy Vogue instead of dinner – I just felt it fed me more.” I can relate to her sentiments.

Sometimes, when reading, you come across a paragraph so powerful that it actually has the ability to change you, even just a little. Words so powerful they capture you. You are forced to read the paragraph over and over again, as though it is a wish you want granted. It doesn’t happen with every book, and it doesn’t mean the same thing to every person. But, every now and again, you read something that not only connects with the very core of you, but also, in some small way, actually alters the way you think and feel.

Emily Dickinson once said, “I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes, I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.” Sometimes reading other people’s words can make you feel that way too. Here’s a few of my favourite paragraphs, my favourite words that, placed next to each other, are like magic.

Some excerpts of writing that speak to my very soul …

A paragraph written by Janelle McCulloch in her book La Vie Parisienne:

“We live for certain moments in life. They’re usually the moments when happiness falls unexpectedly around us and we realise that, for that brief second in time, we are extraordinarily content. These moments can be potent. They can make us believe that all moments can be like this, even though the reality is that they are as rare as that other ideal: The Perfect Life. They are so potent we will do anything to prolong them, hoping against all hope that they will lead us into a kind of permanent beatitude.”

A paragraph from Kathleen Tessaro’s Elegance:

“I can’t recall the last time I saw someone enjoying something so much, so openly. Perhaps it’s my age or just the people I hang out with, but almost everyone I know is an aspiring cynic. We stand at the edges of our experiences, smoking cigarettes and trying to convince each other that we’ve seen this, done that and it isn’t so hot anyway. It’s considered un-cool to be passionate, if not downright gauche. And on the odd occasions when one of us does become excited, it’s under duress, both embarrassing and brief. It’s considered unrealistic; a kind of madness that descends and has to be apologised for the next day. ‘Real life’ is, after all, a serious and rather dull business. And the more serious and dull, the more ‘real’ it is. I don’t know how we all collectively come to the conclusion that this is the way adults behave.”

An excerpt from Jack Kerouac’s On The Road:

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

Walt Whitman’s O Me! O Life! poem from Leaves of Grass:

“O me! O life! of the questions of these recurring,

Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,

Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,

Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,

Of the empty and useless years of rest, with the rest me intertwined,

The question, O me! so sad, recurring-What good amid these, O me, O life?


That you are here-that life exists and identity.

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

Yes, without any doubt, words are powerful.

Sometimes, they just get me. Right in the throat. And they make me want to do powerful, good things.