Morgan Dafydd is the founder of the wonderful Sôn am Lyfra website. He’s also a member of the judging panel for the Tir na n-Og Awards 2021 and he’s been talking to us about how he went from a reluctant to an avid reader.
I was raised on the outskirts of Conwy in north Wales. After spending five years as a primary school teacher in the area, I won a scholarship to do a PhD researching new ways of supporting and encouraging children to read and enjoy Welsh literature.
I wasn’t a big reader when I was young, even though Mam tried very hard to persuade me.
I’d never choose to read a novel as a child, but I did enjoy reading encyclopaedias and manuals – especially if they were about planes, boats and trains.
One book I remember reading regularly is Gwyddoniadur Mawr y Plant. I loved learning how things work, and I think that non-fiction books sparked my interest in the world around us.
When I was a teacher, I kept an eye on new children’s books so that I could recommendtitles to my pupils and choose class novels that would appeal to everyone. Most of my pupils didn’t speak Welsh at home and it was a frequent challenge to attract them to Welsh–language books, because they were so unfamiliar to the children and their families.
Since leaving teaching I have more time to keep an eye on new books, so I decided to share my knowledge and my honest opinion with parents and teachers and founded a reviews website, Sôn am Lyfra, with my partner Llio.
I review new and old Welsh books for children and young people, and I hope that this helps people choose suitable titles that they’ll enjoy reading. There are fantastic original Welsh books and adaptations being published and there’s a wealth of classics gathering dust on our shelves.
I feel like I missed out by not reading more when I was younger, and I’ve got a lot of catching up to do now. I’m enthralled by T. Llew Jones and Gareth F. Williams and I regret not reading them sooner … if only I’d given them a go when I was in school! But I think it’s very important that children and young people choose the right books for them to read for pleasure, and I’m glad that we’re seeing more diversity in Welsh literature because it’s so important for young readers.
Reading is so important in every part of life – I can’t emphasise that enough! It promotes creativity, feeds a healthy imagination, and offers transferable and useful skills for the world of work.
It really is an honour to be invited to be a judge for an award as important as this. The Tir na n-Og award offers excellent publicity to new Welsh books as well as raising awareness of Welsh children’s literature in general.