It often seems that children don’t have time for childhood any more
I have always been grateful that I spent my childhood in a slower age. I sometimes wonder, when I visit friends with small children, whether they have time to explore the wonders of the world around them and listen to stories read to them by loving parents.
It often seems that children don’t have time for childhood any more.
The world reaches them via their little computer screens and they spend their time blasting aliens or killing electronic monsters.
I was reminded of my childhood recently when I came across a slightly tattered copy of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories in the corner of a cupboard.
My parents read them to me when I was too young to read for myself.
I still hear the echo of my mother’s voice when I read these beautiful, poetic stories today.
They were obviously written to be read aloud and one of the wonderful things, for me, is that they were mostly about South Africa.
Kipling wrote some of them when he was staying in Rondebosch as a guest of Cecil Rhodes and he was obviously enchanted by the country.
You can trace the journey of the elephant’s child right from Addo to the “great grey-green greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever trees”.
I loved the stories of how the leopard got its spots and how the rhino got its skin.
When I was sent away to boarding school at the age of eight, I could recite the whole of The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo from beginning to end, word perfect.
I consider The Butterfly That Stamped to be one of the great love stories of the world and can’t read it, even today, without getting a sentimental lump in my throat.
Like all good children’s stories, Kipling’s tales are as entertaining to adults as they are to kids.
Think of Winnie the Pooh. The Wind in the Willows and Alice in Wonderland.
There’s deep wisdom tucked away in them. They are also written in beautiful, rhythmic style, giving children a taste of how enchanting language can be.
I hope parents have not lost the habit of reading to their children in this hurried electronic age.
Maybe you can still find a copy of the Just So Stories on the shelves in your local charity shop.
If you do, buy it, dust it off and read it to a lucky child or grandchild.
You’ll enjoy the stories as much as they do.
Jimmy was known as the laziest farmer in the district.
One day a motorist saw Jimmy sitting on a log, chewing a piece of grass.
How are you doing? asked the city guy.
“Pretty good,” said Jimmy. “I had some trees to cut down, but luckily there was a storm and the wind blew the trees down, saving me the trouble.”
“That was lucky,” said the traveller.
“Yeah,” said Jimmy, “Then I was going to cut up all the branches, and lightning struck and burnt them all, saving me the work”
“Lucky again, hey! What are you doing now?”
“There’s a field of potatoes ready for harvesting and I’m waiting for an earthquake to shake them out of the ground for me.”