Very often in the class I read or tell stories to the children. I improvise using any props I have near me and play games with words. Words have a magnificent power on children as they calm them down, help them concentrate, prompt them to find answers, deal with their fears and empathise with book heroes in an environment where they have total control of everything. Bongo was born in a similar situation, somewhere in Putney, with ten children sitting around me and waiting for a story. I saw a dinosaur on the window sill. ‘’Once upon time there was a fierce looking dinosaur and his name was… “Bongo..’’. A few days later Evan came and asked me if he could play with Bongo. I looked at him in amazement! ‘’Do you remember my story?’ I asked him and he said ‘Yes!’ This was the moment that I realised I had to write my story. And this is how my journey began.
This Christmas Bongo was one year old, but the journey started long before he was published. It is a journey so amazing and challenging at moments that I feel overwhelmed every time I have to share his story in public, every time a niggling idea to create something keeps me awake at night and every time I hear touching feedback or receive a beautiful card made with love by his little friends.
Sharing a story brings pride and responsibility.
I love books. I live with books and through them. Words have always had a mesmerizing effect on me. Unfortunately, some people don’t know how to use them appropriately. Communication and social interaction could be said to be failing as some people don’t have the education and mind cultivation to use language beneficially.
I don’t believe in good and bad words. Words are born from thoughts and they carry those within them when spoken, like glass jars that allow you to see their content. Words are dressed with intentions and their meaning is changing accordingly. Let’s take the word fat for example – it is not a good or bad word on its own. It’s just a word. If I say ‘’a juicy, fat slice of mouth watering watermelon is my idea of summer holidays!’’ I will most probably evoke a warm feeling of nostalgia, especially if you have experienced something similar on your summer holidays. But if I say ‘’this fat lady sat next to me on the bus today, I could hardly breathe!’’ you’ll find me either funny (if you appreciate irony as humour) or extremely rude, referring to the woman in this way.
I feel that is vital to teach our children how to use words appropriately, not to be scared of them, to appreciate and comprehend them in order to utilise them effectively. Speech derives from positive thoughts and right intentions and books are the greatest assets to achieve that.
I remember coming back from school where someone had used an insult and asking my mum what that word meant. My mum, instead of excommunicating that word ‘’this is bad, don’t ever say it again!’’ explained the meaning to me, helping me in that way to understand why I shouldn’t or didn’t want to use it.
So, I have learned to respect the words. When I started reading a whole new, magic world was opened before me and empowered me to be able to affluently dress my thoughts with words, which consequently allowed me to expand my thoughts.
I feel blessed that through Bongo’s story I have the opportunity to satisfy my need for constructive communication, to share my values about diversity, teamwork and friendship with children and hopefully to inspire them to start questioning things. Questions will provoke thoughts, bring ideas, lead to self-development. And all these can happen through books and stories. Is there anything more I could ask for as a teacher?
To Maria and George. My always fellow travellers.