Every year on the first Wednesday of March, World Read Aloud Day calls global attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories.

There are few moments I relish more than my weekly trip to the library. I love books – the smell of them, the feel of them, the feeling of anticipation as you start a new journey into another world, not quite sure what will meet you around the corner as you turn the next page. And it makes me especially proud that my two boys share my love for the written word. They seem to instinctively understand that a pile of books represents a passport to enter a host of different unchartered lands.

Yesterday’s visit to the library led me to unearth a fresh discovery – brand spanking new books, recently purchased and covered in silky plastic, with nary a date stamp in any of them! The librarian caught me oogling them and allowed me to take three out. (I could have taken the whole lot, but that would have been simply greedy! In the end, I thought I was quite self-restrained, like when you only buy three items of clothing at a fashion sale when you could have walked away with the whole store.) The title of one caught my attention and I knew it would be an instant hit with the boys, Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter’s The Dinosaur Who Pooped a Planet. (Yes, you read that right – pooped – as in the thing you do on the toilet. Clearly they have the inside track as to what will appeal to boys.) The other, I Am an Artist by Marta Altes, whom I have never come across before, has the most delightful, anarchic illustrations and I felt sure would resonate with my youngest son. The publisher Panmacmillan describes it as “the perfect book for anyone who loves making art – and making a mess!” And Julia Donaldson of the Gruffalo fame, who needs no introduction, has recently brought out a sequel to The Owl and the Pussycat, that classic of children’s literature. Her fluency in rhyming is quite astounding, one of the skills that I fear many modern children’s writers seem to have jettisoned in favour of sparse text and larger-than-life illustrations or they do it so poorly that you wonder why they even bothered. But Julia, of course, does it with aplomb, in the tradition of Lewis Carroll and other greats like him. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a story crafted in good rhyme, with the correct meter to match.

Low-res new library books

To top off my elation of discovering new books, I watched on breakfast TV this morning that today is World Read Aloud Day, a day when parents and caregivers the world over are encouraged to read to their children. Gcina Mhlophe, South African storyteller extraordinaire with her trademark deep-bellied voice, and Sally Mills of the Nal’ibali literacy campaign were being interviewed. They were espousing the benefits of reading regularly to children, how it fires up their imaginations and helps them create images in their minds. Gcina said it was her own granny who sparked her appreciation of storytelling, a love which shaped her into the person she was to become.

So here’s to creating a new generation of bookworms – children who don’t need the instant gratification of video games and flickering images on screens to satisfy their thirst for adventure. Here’s to swashbuckling and pirate islands, riding unicorns and befriending hobbits and fauns; here’s to children who love to find themselves in books and whose boundaries are expanded by the wealth of information they contain. This quote by Dr Seuss sums it up perfectly, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”