Enid Blyton, that prodigious children’s writer who many of us are familiar with, is the author for today’s ‘books to read aloud’ series. It is astonishing that one author wrote so many books (~700 estimated) which have spanned three generations so well. Our parents read them, we read them as children and now we find ourselves reading them to our children.
There are a number of factors which make Enid Blyton books so appealing both to read aloud and to read alone:
1. There are so many of them! Children love series and reading more about the same characters. For example The Famous Five series has 21 titles, The Secret Seven and the Five Find Outers both have 15 titles. Once a child is interested there are so many more to move on to. It also means you can get them interested by reading the first one or two aloud, then encourage them to read the rest themselves.
2. There are gentle stories yet realistic. The relationships are real, the friendships are genuine and the descriptions are fun. Children play the key role in all books, adults are present but they sort of fade into the background. The children have real adventures, and boys and girls have equal fun and abilities.
3. The imaginative ones are so much fun – how good would it be to climb a tree, find magic people living in it and then magic lands that always changed at the top of the tree? It was the Magic Faraway Tree series that got my kids hooked on Blyton books at the beginning.
4. I know they are appropriate. I do not have to worry about them reading about inappropriate relationships or teen love and angst; there is no bad language; people who behave badly always get caught and the kids always solve the problems.
5. They present a picture of life in the 1930s-50s in England in great detail. My children have realised how different life was then to the life they know now. It is entirely foreign in their experience for children to be sent off on the train to visit relatives for months so they get better from the pollution of the city (The Children of Cherry Tree Farm). Similarly, for them to read in detail about rural life and an animals throughout the English countryside is very different from any farm stay we could do here!
If there is anything about Blyton books that you might occasionally hesitate about it is that a fair amount of it does need to be ‘translated’ or explained to children today. It is just so far from their own experience. But we have discovered that once you have read a few of them, they get used to the language and the terminology and are fine. My 8 year old daughter is currently reading all The Secret Seven and my son (age 10) still returns regularly to The Famous Five.
We have enjoyed reading The Magic Faraway Tree series aloud, as well as The Children of Cherry Tree Farm and The Children of Willow Farm. Which ones do your family enjoy?