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Squiggles and an Arabian princess

by: Marilyn Owen (30 September 2009)

Words are amazing things. To many of us they have a whole life of their own, especially in their written form. I've been fascinated by words since the age of not quite three when my dad taught me to read with homemade cardboard letters to take to bed with me each night.

It all started when one early evening I saw my dad reading the newspaper and wondered what all the squiggles were! I actually remember the occasion and my mum calling out from the kitchen "Teach her to read, teach her to read!" She was so excited and my dad did a fine job in no time at all I was a fluent reader. My dad had very cleverly taught me how to read using the phonetics method which I took to like a duck takes to water I learned to recognise the vowels and consonants and they started to make sense. It was all magic to me and I still think this is the best way to teach a child to read far better than the whole word recognition method later used for my sons.

My grandmother picked up from the market a book which by any standards would be deemed very old-fashioned. It was called Timmy is a Big Boy now say no more, but the illustrations are exceptional. I have it still, coverless but with nostalgia written all over it. The sad thing is I missed out on children's classics like Beatrix Potter but made up for it all when reading to my sons later on!

My mum was a firm believer in the classics and every Sunday afternoon we'd listen to the 2 o'clock serial I remember listening avidly to Oliver Twist, Lorna Doone and Alice in Wonderland and later on The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Then my mum would trot off to Woolworths to buy me the book for the serial which we were following. I have the 2s 6d (12p!) red hardback copies with tattered covers for these on my bookshelves still!

But my dad, bless him, was not so literary I remember he took me to the newsagent every Sunday morning and allowed me the comic of my choice I scorned Jack and Jill and Playhour as babyish I was five years old and I guess quite precocious in that respect! Unnerved, I pointed to a teenage magazine called Roxy I could see it had fascinating serials to follow each week. My dad didn't give it even a first look and just paid for it and gave it to me.

This situation carried on for a few weeks. One day I was deep into a serial called Passionate Love, the story of an Arabian princess and her lover, when my mum noticed that I was reading something quite inappropriate for a five-year old. She begged me to stop getting it and choose something more suitable, and of course I agreed to her request. Chastened no doubt by my mum, my dad got me to choose another comic it was Bunty which I always enjoyed for some years after, along with such schoolgirl classics as Schoolfriend and Princess.

But I never forgot my first love Roxy and the fact that I never found out what happened to the beautiful Arabian princess!

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