I was lucky to grow up in a family that loves literature and languages and from an early age my father owned a small bookshop on Regent’s Street in London, called ‘Bookends’. I can remember the excitement I felt when I visited the shop and the children’s section was designed as a World of Beatrix Potter corner and was a haven for any small child. I was privileged to receive new editions as they graced the shop shelves and many of Roald Dahl’s books hit the Bailey household before general release. At that stage, the ‘Berlitz Guides’ were released and popular for learning new languages and there was a designated language section in the shop which I was always drawn to, with a set of headphones and the audio Italian or French books! My mother’s love of opera and musicals meant there was always a rousing song streaming through the house from the farmhouse kitchen. Hearing the tunes from ‘The Magic Flute’, ‘Westside Story’, ‘Aida’ and ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, amongst so many others, bring back such strong family memories. We often talk about ‘reading by example’ in our family and this is so true, as it has a fundamental impact on our own development and use of language, vocabulary and on our creative imagination.
Our school is diverse and rich in cultural and family heritage. We look to celebrate this and the many languages and international traditions we share, as they form such an important foundation of your children’s growth. National Storytelling Week celebrated a few weeks ago and the Parent Association International Food Festival, which will be hosted at the school in April, are special school events, designed to celebrate our diversity, traditions and love of language. Spanish Day takes place at WPNY on 10th March, ahead of spring break and we look forward to welcoming flamenco dancers, Spanish dance workshops, traditional food and Spanish history and geography activities across the school. The power of language, reading, culture and music can be felt so strongly here in New York. The New York Public Library has over 50 million books on offer and more than 800 languages are spoken in the City with New York often recognised as the world’s most linguistically diverse city. The City has long been a thriving home for popular music genres such as jazz, rock, soul music, R&B, funk, disco and the urban blues, as well as classical and art music. With a love of reading and bookshops, I always try to find ones to recommend families. We have two in very close proximity to us at the School, with ‘The Corner Bookstore’ on Madison Avenue and I would recommend the inviting ‘Books of Wonder’ on West 84th Street. This is one of the nation’s leading dealers in old and rare out-of-print collectible children’s books. Do go and have a look at the some of their first edition titles, many of which are signed by the author or illustrator. There is a magic in giving a gift from our own childhood, to anyone we know.
This Friday, Mrs Charteris and I shall lead the Family Assembly on social responsibility and leadership stories. Giving back and taking time to help others is something we do well here at the School. On Friday last week, the ‘One Sandwich at a Time’ team were back for a third year and the whole school took part to make over 280 sandwiches for the homeless. This event brings out the best in our school and its message strikes a chord with your children. In terms of bringing out our best through literature, I’d like to make a recommendation. Barnes and Noble’s 2019 Book of the Year winner was announced recently and if you have not read Charlie Mackesy’s ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’, I would urge you to buy this. It is inspirational, thought-provoking and beautifully illustrated.