05/11/2014 10:30 GMT | Updated 04/01/2015 05:59 GMT

Children Are Our Future - Let Them Know of Those That Gave Their Today

"Children want to explore the world in narrative form because it provides immense security in a changing world." The words of Publisher, Ann-Janine Murtagh at a recent conference celebrating the power of the book.

And how the world has changed since World War 1.


Back in 1914 pigeons flew through gun powdered skies to deliver messages. Soldiers rode on horseback, mercy dogs raced across battlefields to deliver urgent first aid kits and the Imperial Camel Corps aided transport.

Back home conkers were collected by children for bomb making. Ticklers in Grimsby exported tins of apple and plum jam to the forces while a tin of Farrah's toffee from Harrogate saved a soldier's life. "Chatting" became an official term as soldiers talked while picking lice "chats" out of each other's uniforms and the "deeply regret to inform you" letters were delivered to anxious families by telegram boys on bicycles.

And then the world listened as Pope Benedict XV pleaded for the "guns to fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang." The statesmen didn't listen, but the soldiers did. Random outbreaks of peace along No Man's Land took place on Christmas Day 1914 as soldiers from both the Central Powers and the Allies put down their guns and shook hands in friendship.

The Truce might have been short lived but it demonstrated the power of the human spirit in the most horrific of situations.

For young children, facts like these are fascinating. They identify with the family stricken by the loss of their son, with the bravery of the men and women who risked life for a better world, and they resonate with the power of poetry and how poppy fields and skylarks brought comfort to the suffering on the front line.

Yet, in many cases they are missing out an opportunity to bear witness.

Commendable focus by the government has been made to ensure that secondary school children are included in the commemorations. At present two children from every state secondary school in England until March 2019 are given the opportunity to visit First World War battlefields.

But in many cases it has been left to local community groups to include younger children in events.

Many have tackled the challenge with relish, planting poppies, creating wall art, writing poetry, researching the names of the war memorial and so on.

And the "immense security" of a picture book can be the spur for the activities. Not only does the narrative form develop an empathy engine that enables children to engage with that period, but, along with the commemorations, it provides the opportunity to nurture a love of history as well as an opportunity to foster intercultural understanding and strengthen ties of tolerance.

Let's do more by creating national initiatives to help young children share in the commemorations. After all, their tomorrow was secured by their ancesters who gave their today.

Hilary Robinson is the author of Where The Poppies Now Grow and The Christmas Truce, illustrated by Martin Impey. Published by Strauss House Productions.