"There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favourite book". Marcel Proust
This year, the theme of International Literacy Day is "Literacy and Sustainable Development". Literacy is key to sustainable development, empowering people to realise their potential, and as a basis for lifelong learning. Reading is of course also a highly pleasurable pastime and the opportunity to escape into an alternative reality. Many of the local organisations that Stars has awarded over the years either focus on improving literacy skills directly or recognise the importance of literacy in successful and sustainable development.
In recognition of all the work that organisations like Developments in Literacy (DIL), Africa Educational Trust (AET) and Shine Centre do to improve child literacy in developing countries, members of the team at Stars HQ decided to share some of our own favourite childhood reads.
Reading this book was the first time I remember being truly delighted by the power of words. Originally published more than 50 years ago, the wit, wordplay and wonder introduced through characters like the Whether Man, the Mathemagician and Faintly Macabre the not-so-wicked 'Which' still delight readers - both young and old - today.
- Ashley Johnson, Senior Communications & Marketing Officer
I still have my first copy, although it is falling apart and has 'This belongs to Keighley, age 4' written across it in a jumbo marker pen. I loved the idea that someone was wondering around while people slept, handing out good dreams.
- Keighley Jensen, Office & Team Coordinator
This was the first book that ever made me cry. I was really touched by the fact that two such different people who had each been hurt in very distinct ways were able to find in each other the love and comfort that they both so desperately needed. And that their relationship was of father and son, rather than romantic as so often is the case. It was also the book that piqued my interest in the WWII era.
- Sarah Johnstone, Programme Officer
What was my favourite book as a kid? Strangely, the first thing that comes to mind is a memory of being read to in my grand parents' garden one summer. My cousins and I sat down as my aunt read this classic to us. The adventures of Lyra, Roger and the other children really fascinated me. But it was this moment of closeness amongst my family – and my aunt’s exceptional delivery of the story – that triggered in me a passion for books.
- Camille Warambourg, Programme Assistant
My favourite childhood book was To Kill a Mockingbird. It was one of the books we were made to read at school, but instead of reading it chapter by chapter as required for each English class, I read it all in a couple of days because it was so good that I just couldn't put it down. It taught me that I could actually enjoy homework – and that even books I was 'forced' to read could be inspiring.
- Muna Wehbe, CEO
Holes is the story of Stanley Yelnats, a boy who wrongly gets convicted of stealing a pair of basketball shoes, and is sent to a young juveniles camp in the desert to dig holes every day, all in the name of character-building (or so they are told).
I remember the book being very funny, in a charming and offbeat way, but also quite dark at times. Just thinking about it makes me want to dig it out when I’m next at my parents' house!
- Katie Williams, Programme Officer
Visiting my grandparents on our family trips back to India was magical enough, however, an added spark was when they used to read me the stories of Akbar and Birbal. These tales –now an integral part of Indian heritage – are based on the relationship shared between an illiterate king who ruled the Mughal Empire between 1542 and 1605 (Akbar) and his advisor and confidant (Birbal).
The trio of wit, wisdom and subtle humour that Birbal managed to encapsulate in his responses to Akbar's questions were truly captivating. These stories not only imparted moral values and virtues, but also inspired me to do well in school so I could be as clever as Birbal.
- Neha Broota, Senior Development Officer
As a child I was obsessed with poems and particularly nonsense rhymes. My dad would read me this book and I would be newly delighted with every read at the bizarre names given to each odd fantasy animal. It taught me that words can be fun and silly, and that if you want to make a poem rhyme, you can invent new words! Despite the illustrations I would spend hours daydreaming about what my version of the 'Attery Squash' or the 'Dong with a luminous nose' would look like. We loved the book so much that we named one of our dogs after the 'Pobble who hast no toes'.
- Emma Tallamy, Communications & Marketing Assistant
I probably read this book more than seven times. It is a short but compelling story of a man whose holiday budget is so little that he has no choice but to accept the agent's only recommendation. He visits Piro Piro, a small island in the middle of an undefined ocean and is transported to a land of adventure, adapting to all the customs of the Piropiri, the island's population. As a child, this book also took me on a journey of discovery with every read.
- Alessio Kolioulis, Programme Assistant