You could be the listening ear a child needs.

You only need to think back to how books enriched your young life to get an inkling of what a little of your time could do for some children today.

Recent reports suggest many children who lacked an ability to read in their early years end up struggling to keep up with peers in the years that follow. Many just needed someone to listen to them read.

And that’s your opportunity, fuelled by your own delight in the books that shaped your own young live.

Perhaps, as a child, the books that fired your imagination were those like The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis or Stig of the Dump by Clive King.

I know this was true for me – a delight to read and, unbeknown to me, they began to shape my values and were even an early signposts in my search for faith. Not bad for children’s books.

It was Clive King’s his own childhood that inspired him to write Stig of the Dump in 1963. If you are a Baby Boomer like me, you probably remember it’s the story of a boy who falls into a chalk pit at the bottom of his grandparent’s garden and discovers a new friend from the Stone Age.

It’s a reminder of the adventures children used to have, imagined or otherwise, when allowed to roam free in the countryside, discovering bits of ‘this and that’, which could be turned into something enhancing whatever game was being played. I now live in a village but have never seen children playing in the countryside. What’s happened? Have they lost the freedom we once enjoyed?

Imaginations however still need feeding and encouraging. CS Lewis recalls how a miniature garden made by his brother on top of an old biscuit tin evoked an early image of paradise, and how the talking animal stories they invented in the attic at their childhood home became the basis of the Narnia adventures he wrote in later life.

There may not be a children’s book in you waiting to be written, though you never know until you try, but you could be a listening ear to children who need their imaginations stirring.

Could you give the vital gift of being a listening ear to a child – as a number of actively-retired people from my own church are doing and finding it very rewarding? If so, here are the easy steps to take –

  1. Contact the Head Teacher at your local primary school. This could be done through the local church minister or pastor if a few of you are going in, which helps build stronger links with local schools, but it is not essential.
  2. Offer an hour a week, or more if able, to listen to children read.
  3. Go along a meet the Head and find out how to proceed
  4. They should need a Safeguarding Check (DBS) which they can organise.
  5. They will have their own books, but you can offer to take or donate books, though please do check with the school if it is ok with them.

Reading changed my life, and it’s never too late to be an agent of change for someone else.

Chris Harrington

Rev Captain Chris Harrington is a Church Army officer and Rector of Heckington and Helpringham Group of Parishes. He has a special interest in reaching the retired and active generation and author of the Grove Booklet Reaching the Saga Generation.

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The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife