Julia Donaldson "If I ruled the world"

Anna Walker

Children’s author Julia Donaldson is the writer behind such beloved classics as The Gruffalo, Zog and Room on the Broom. She was awarded a CBE in 2019

Children would learn about nature.

When I visit schools, I find that very few children know the names of quite common flowers, plants or birds. We’re told all the time that we need to care for our planet, but how can we do that if we barely know what’s on the planet? It’s much easier to care for something you actually know and love. I’d also take children out of the classroom more. There are so many permission slips and things now—if the weather was nice when we were young it was “Oh lets go outside to the local park.” I’m a Londoner, but you don’t have to go very far to find birds and plants even in an urban area.

 

Every primary school would have a librarian.

Every single primary school in New South Wales has a teacher with an extra qualification in librarianship. I think if we could have that, then all the children in school would hear stories and we’d end up with a more literate and imaginative population.

children books

 

I would cull the use of pesticides.

My heart really sinks when I hear about the decline in the number of birds, flowers and insects and I gather that some bee species are in decline. That means a smaller range of plants can be pollinated, which in turn affects birds and other animals. Since it’s many agricultural causes such as using extensive pesticides that are largely to blame, I’d take measures to cull their use.

 

I would insist that tennis players only get one serve because I don’t think it’s as interesting when somebody double faults and then aces—I’d much rather watch a good rally. They could decide whether they’re going to smash it or play safe, so psychologically it would be quite interesting. I’d also fine them for shrieking and grunting too loudly.

 

I’d subsidise public transport, particularly trains so that people can afford to use them rather than contributing to pollution by driving cars. I have family in Scotland and often visit, but I’m afraid it’s much cheaper to fly than to get the train, which is ridiculous since planes are so much more polluting than trains.

public transport

 

There would be more live music in schools.

I find that when they sing in schools nowadays it’s almost always to a backing track, so there’s no leeway in the rhythm. I don’t think children hear live instruments enough. I’d have more singing in schools generally. People really underestimate what children are capable of. I have nothing against them singing poppy, catchy songs with the occasional backing track, but those are things they’re already going to see and hear on television or online. I think there’s a wider variety of songs that are meant for singing in school and are uplifting to sing.

 

I’d change the way we order in restaurants.

It really annoys me that nowadays the waiter comes to your table, and they have to ask, “what would you like to drink?” before they ask you what you’d like to eat. Then they go off and bring back the drinks and then ask you what you want to eat. By the time the food comes, you’ve all finished your drinks and you have to order more. And then I’d put a stop to the waiter always coming to the table and topping up the glasses. It’s not fair because the people who drink the fastest get their glasses filled up to the brim, but the slow drinkers lose out.

 

I’d encourage more foreign exchanges.

I think it’s such fun to become familiar with a different way of talking and thinking and I’m sad that language learning is in decline. I’d encourage foreign exchanges not where all the British children stay together in a hostel, but by having them stay with families. I did that in France and Germany and it immeasurably improved my French and German.

 

The Smeds and the Smoos by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler is out now (£12.99 Alison Green Books)


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