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My daughter is a bit of a character. She’s hilarious, talented, gregarious, incessantly on the move and, just sometimes, absolutely exhausting.
This was evident from her first hours on earth.
Instead of being a wrinkly, spaced-out or screaming bag of fragile bones and poo, she was terrifyingly alert. Hers was not a bleary gaze of confusion; her demeanor was not the primitive rage of a hungry baby.
No. She popped out and then stared at people. If she could have spoken, she would have asked questions. She would have had the midwife’s entire history within the hour. Her funny eyes bored into ours with bright curiosity. She mastered moving her head within days (unlike her loll-headed older brother) purely so she could whip around and investigate any new sounds/voices/faces with razor sharp interrogative accuracy. Breast feeding was agony – she wasn’t interested in food. She was interested in PEOPLE, and if she had to turn violently around (boob still attached) to look at something, then by God, she would do it. Placid older brother was safe in the middle of a bed for 7 months – yes, SEVEN. Dear daughter had inchwormed across and fallen off her first bed at 2 weeks. WEEKS.
(Note. Do not try this at home. Obviously. I accept no liability for bad decisions based on our bad decisions)
This is purely setting the scene for the subject I plan to ramble on about today – a subject very close to my heart. Reading. (As in, books. Not the commuter belt town in Berkshire)
There is nothing like a book. Nothing as beautiful, alluring, mysterious, life-affirming or mind-expanding as a book. Growing up into an adult has robbed me of many pleasures (eg. Holidays. Who can honestly enjoy all that preparation, packing, organising, travelling, sick-mopping, itinerary-enforcing, unpacking and laundry? Not me.) but a good book remains one of my favourite things.
Leaving my local library with a big hessian bag bursting with a great haul of books, makes me gleeful and gives me something to look forward to every day. You will never catch me buying a kindle or similar. I adore the feel of books – the heavy paper, the intriguing covers, even the smell – and I can’t part with a single book I love. Marie Kondo (the batty “Does it bring you JOY?” lady) claims you should only keep a handful of special books. Because, she asks, who ever reads a book more than once?
Er…that would be me. I tell people we moved house to be near good schools for our kids, but really we moved because the book collection needed a bigger home.
Some of my favourites have been read so many times that I wonder how I’ve had time to go to school or hold down a job. Mind you, I read FAST. Super fast. And it turns out my son has inherited my love of books (and the ability to read ridiculously fast).
As a baby, he was the polar opposite of my daughter. Quiet, solemn, placid, thoughtful. He would sit and observe. It would take him months to decide if he liked someone or something. When he was 3 years old, he picked up a big book of nursery rhymes, took himself to the sofa and pretty much sat there for two weeks looking at it fiercely. He didn’t want us to read them out loud; in fact, he didn’t want us to disturb him at all. At the end of the two weeks, he got down, put the book away and announced that he could read. And he could. And did – every chance that he got.
What I love about my son being an avid reader, is that we can read the same books – we can have our own freakin book club at home!! We discuss characters and plots, debate subtext, scoff at plot holes…or sometimes we just sit side by side and read our own books, together but alone.
It always upset me a little that my daughter was too lively, too energetic, too sociable to want to sit down and read. Although she loved (and still does love) having stories read to her, she just never had that shiny, obsessive look that my son and I get when we walk in to Waterstones.
A few weeks ago, Hubby and I decided that the best thing for our daughter’s academic progress would simply be to give her an allocated time when she HAS to read – not negotiable. We gave her Poppy Pym, Malory Towers, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…and announced that 8.15pm is silent reading time. She was completely agreeable to this, and obediently read every night for half an hour.
This, in itself, was quite a triumph. Usually ‘alone time’ of over a minute results in some kind of bizarre costume being donned and an improvised noisy dance being performed, whether we’d like to see it or not!
But sometime in to the second week, a miracle happened. She caught the bug! She started disappearing off to her room the second she got back from school. She’d bring her book with her everywhere we went. She had that distracted, dreamy look during dinner, as she thought about the characters who now seem real to her. Hallelujah! She went through about 5 books like a voracious worm, and has now started on Harry Potter – and LOVES it. Within a couple of days, she’d finished books 1 and 2.
I brought her the 3rd as she lay in bed, waiting for her goodnight kiss. I placed it by her bedside and said, “This one is the best one. You’ll love it! And you can start it in the morning if you wake up early enough.”
So, this morning, she was up at 7am, deep into the world of Hogwarts and magical creatures. She impatiently went to school, put up with learning all day, and then raced home to carry on reading. She did break off for a snack though. As she sat chewing an apple, her eyes far away and obviously pondering a plot point, she suddenly said, “It was really scary when the Denominators got on the Hogwarts train.”
Ha. Glad to see she hasn’t been neglecting her fractions…