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Blog - Let’s read that again

Let’s read that again
By Benny 9/11/2015 10:21 AM Comments

Recently, I was looking through my son’s old books he’d loved as a toddler. When you move houses, as much as we have recently, it’s normal to get reacquainted with such old friends. As I rummaged through that cardboard box,  I remembered cold December evenings, curled up under the duvet, reading our way through a stack of our favourite books. Before we snuggled under the duvet, we would look through our book basket, for books that would make our pile. With one chubby hand, he would pull out books on diggers. They were his favourite machine and it did not matter if the digger only made a fleeting appearance in the story. But amidst this pile of machine oriented books would turn up ‘The tiger who came to tea. ‘Read again?’ he’d ask, having read the same book several times over the last week already.


As I sat down to write this blog, I asked him if he remembered the book. Turns out he remembered it very well - some five years later.


The book is about a nonchalant tiger who turn up for tea, just as little Sophie and her mum are sitting down to it. As tigers do, this one rings the doorbell and asks to be let in. In very warm language and in entirely non-judgemental tones, Judith Kerr describes an animal that eats up everything in the house, and drinks everything in the house (even all the water in the taps). But she never gives you the feeling that he is greedy. Just that he is being a tiger. Neither do you get the feeling that Sophie and her mother are annoyed with the tiger who has eaten up all their food. In fact, when they find they have nothing to eat, dad takes to them a café for sausages and mash, a truly lovely meal.


And the next day, Sophie and her mum go shopping and matter-of-factly, buy a large tin of tiger food. Something tells me though that after all those lovely cakes and biscuits he’s had, he’s not going to be keen on that tin of tiger food. A rather melancholy ending though to the book, as it says, that he never did return.



I believe every family needs these special books - books that form wonderful memories that you look back at 5, 10 or 15 years later and that seem to bring time back somehow. The tiger who came to tea will be one of our family heirlooms, passed on to the next generation. Apart from just the special memories that they create, research shows that for children to consolidate and use vocabulary that they have heard from adults around them, they have to hear the word a few hundred times. Yes, you heard it right – a few hundred times! Books like this, which a child does not easily tire of, is the perfect context for repetition. My son found the story so entertaining that he was even willing to sit through my multiple tiger impressions…and each time we finished the story with a sad ‘But he never did (come back)’, we both sighed audibly, as we set the book aside.


A book like ‘The tiger who came to tea’ also forms a fabulous aid for hypothetical discussions, if your child is older. Why do you think the tiger never came back again? If he’d come again, do you think he’d have been happy with being served tiger food? How do you think he ended up in their house that evening?


If your child is too young for that sort of questions, you can talk about feelings. How did the tiger feel when he’d been given something to eat? How did Sophie feel when all her food was eaten up? How would you feel if you had nothing left for tea?


There is so much you can do with a book and forming priceless memories is such a beautiful part of it. Go on, find some good books and make some of your own.



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