A Letter from Jane Goodall


We are in the midst of a reading revolution in our home. In fact, it’s downright rebellion. There is a hand-drawn chart on brown wrapping paper covering a wall, listing all the books we’ve finished so far this year. Our names are up there too, with a mark for each book completed. Renzi is fast-approaching leading position. We’re ignoring the fact that his picture books contain much fewer words than the rest of our choices, because at the end of the day, the competitive side of this revolution is not the point. Sure, it serves as great impetus, trying to out-read one another. But it’s the fact that we’re all reading that lies at the heart of it.

I stumbled across a letter from one of our favourite conservationists (and readers), Jane Goodall, addressed to her readers, that echoes this love of the written word, paper between fingers. Here it is ~ I hope it might help inspire a reading revolution in your own home…

Dear Children,

I want to share something with you — and that is how much I loved books when I was your age. Of course, back then there was no Internet, no television — we learned everything from printed books. We didn’t have much money when I was a child and I couldn’t afford new books, so most of what I read came from our library. But I also used to spend hours in a very small second hand book shop. The owner was an old man who never had time to arrange his books properly. They were piled everywhere and I would sit there, surrounded by all that information about everything imaginable. I would save up any money I got for my birthday or doing odd jobs so that I could buy one of those books. Of course, you can look up everything on the Internet now. But there is something very special about a book — the feel of it in your hands and the way it looks on the table by your bed, or nestled in with others in the bookcase.

I loved to read in bed, and after I had to put the lights out I would read under the bedclothes with a torch, always hoping my mother would not come in and find out! I used to read curled up in front of the fire on a cold winter evening. And in the summer I would take my special books up my favorite tree in the garden. My Beech Tree. Up there I read stories of faraway places and I imagined I was there. I especially loved reading about Doctor Doolittle and how he learned to talk to animals. And I read about Tarzan of the Apes. And the more I read, the more I wanted to read.

I was ten years old when I decided I would go to Africa when I grew up to live with animals and write books about them. And that is what I did, eventually. I lived with chimpanzees in Africa and I am still writing books about them and other animals. In fact, I love writing books as much as reading them — I hope you will enjoy reading some of the ones that I have written for you.

Jane Goodall

My Little Readers