WHICH books do you remember most vividly and fondly from when you were a child? It’s deceptively difficult. There’s such a broad range.

At the younger end, the simple stories that are read to us before we can read them for ourselves: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Gruffalo, Little Noddy. At the other, books aimed at general readers but which appeal more, perhaps, when young: James Bond, Lord of the Rings.

And in between, a bookshelf full of marvels: The Famous Five, Little Women, Tracey Beaker, Molesworth, Nancy Drew, Harry Potter, His Dark Materials.

Led by our very own Joan Nicholson, the Airedale Writers’ Circle meeting for May considered, and shared readings from, favourite books for children.

There wasn’t always such a thing: the first titles targeted directly at the young were published in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Some names are still familiar: Puss in Boots, Cinderella, Mother Goose.

But most early works seem to have been dreary, preachy things designed to teach readers how to be good little boys and girls. At very best, they were re-tellings of Shakespeare, or fairy tale collections by the Brothers Grimm. Instructive, improving, but hard going for modern readers.

The change came mid-19th century, when Queen Victoria was amassing an enormous family, and when childhood came to be recognised, at last, as a separate stage of development. Then, for a hundred years the ‘classic’ works come thick and fast: Alice in Wonderland, Tom Brown’s Schooldays, Wind in the Willows, Treasure Island.

A young bookworm might still enjoy many. Peter Pan and Alice have been source material for films in just the last decade.

Finding dusty old favourites brought mixed feelings. Long-forgotten stories about an animal hospital at Badger’s Bend set my teeth on edge: a badly-disguised recruitment campaign for vets, in which a know-nothing boy lords it over a girl who is a little younger but far more savvy than he.

The ending of Peter Pan, which we tend not to notice when young and which is rather left out of the Disney version, is bleak and sad: the lost boys can’t fly anymore and have humdrum office jobs, while the eternally in-the-moment Peter has forgotten all about them.

Mostly the magic persists: pushing through the back of a wardrobe into a land where it’s always winter; or racing down the high road in a powerful motor car with Toad of Toad Hall, sounding the horn and shouting ‘poop poop.’

Admit it: often, as adults, we enjoy books written for younger readers — and so we should. They’re great stories, well-written, and they still help us make sense of the world. As it often used to say, in the blurb on the back: a story to delight children of all ages.