“Wilbur didn’t want food, he wanted love”
I only discovered this great novel when my oldest Siobhan was seven. At the time she loved books, but was not a confident reader, so I would go to the library and get a selection of the great books that I had read from my childhood, like The Famous Five, Anne of Green Gables, Pippi Longstocking, Heidi, and Wind in the Willows and read to her every day after school.
She actually hated to read by herself at the time, and found it so very hard, she would get so angry and frustrated when she couldn’t figure the words out, like all the other kids could in the class. This really dented her confidence and isolated her even more from the other children. But I knew she loved stories, and had a great imagination, and with a little patience and determination she would get there.
“Never hurry, never worry.”
It became a little ritual, our new routine which we stuck to, and as anyone who has a child with Autism knows, once you have set the routine, if you break it, it can be very distressing and overwhelming for your child. So we continued on until she had the confidence to tackle the chapters by herself and enjoy reading alone. Charlotte’s Web was the first novel we chose to read.
“Why did you do all this for me? he asked. I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you. You have been my friend, replied Charlotte. That in itself is a tremendous thing,“
At the time Siobhan was still exploring her special interests, we had already had bugs, animals and dinosaurs, but now we had books. If you have a child with Autism you will know that these special interests are everything to them, they become an expert at their subject and this really helps to focus the mind. This was the beginning of her total love of reading, at the time it was just being read to, or sometimes listening to an audio book, but fast forward to today now this has progressed at fourteen to reading several books a week, and this is her special interest now. She will find a new author and if she loves the first book, she will read the whole series.
I love this book as it was the gateway for Siobhan to fall in love with books and realise that she could loose herself in the story, and with her amazing imagination and visualisation she could transport herself into the story. So when I say it changed her life, it really did as it stopped her feeling so isolated from the other kids who could read and gave her a way to quiet her mind and focus.
“Fern was up at daylight, trying to rid the world of injustice. As a result, she now has a pig. A small one to be sure, but nevertheless a pig. It just shows what can happen if a person gets out of bed promptly.”
This quote does make me laugh now when I almost have to drag Siobhan out of bed, being a teenager she loves her bed and would, if I didn’t wake her up I dread to think how long she would be in bed for!
Siobhan becoming a book lover was a pivotal point in her young life, as it is what she has to call her own now. Not having any friends is hard for her, and hard for us her parents as it is quite simply heartbreaking. Now when she meets someone new, it is a talking point, something that is vital for her as she struggles with conversation points with new people. I smile now when she meets a new person, and they ask her about herself and her hobbies. She always enthusiastically answers “it’s reading” she tells them “I love reading”, and this paves the way for her to talk about all her favourite books and authors.
I find it is so important to for Siobhan to have a few topics of conversation up her sleeve, as for her if doesn’t always flow, and then she becomes anxious and tongue tied and then her ticks and stims will surface, which makes her feel awkward and stressed.
“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”
Now Lara, Siobhan’s eight year old sister has just read Charlotte’s Web with me, and loves it nearly as much as Siobhan. The reason why the copy in the photo is looking a bit worn and battered, is that it has been passed down from sister to sister and has been read so many times now. It was heart-warming to hear Siobhan reading aloud her favourite extract of Charlotte’s Web one night before bed to Lara, in that moment I saw how far she had come along from the shy, isolated and frustrated young reader she had been when she was seven to the confident reader with plenty to talk about, and share now.
I read that there is a strong possibility it will be taken off the syllabus in the UK, to concentrate more on British literature, I think this would be a real shame to deny young children of this classic story. It gives so much pleasure to a child to read of such fantastic adventures of a little pig and a spider and their great friendship, and how this can transfer to their own lives. I really hope they don’t tamper with the reading lists and keep this great novel that means so much to us, so other children can discover the magic of Charlotte’s Web as we did.
“If I can fool a bug…I can surely fool a man. People are not as smart as bugs.”
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