You see that grumpy looking wee girl in the front there? The one with the pudding bowl haircut? That’s me, age 6, having my photo taken for the local paper to ‘celebrate’ taking part in a month long read-a-thon at my primary school.
Despite what the photo would have you believe, I love reading. I always have.
Books are the only things I can spend money on without any sense of guilt. Even if it’s a trashy celeb biography, there’s always a part of me that hears a teacher’s or a parent’s voice in my head saying, “Ahhh, but reading is educational.” That makes it a lot easier to add another book to the already-towering pile and head towards the till.
When we moved to our new house, we had to put the vast majority of our books into storage; about 40 or 50 big boxes full. Having always lived in houses where there are bookcases everywhere, groaning under the weight of what they hold, it’s a very odd feeling to now be living without them. But at the same time it has been strangely liberating.
I’m no longer confronted on a daily basis by the shelf of shame – that one row of weighty classics that you know you really should read but you never quite get round to. It has also given me an excuse to start a new book collection to keep me going until we get our boxes back – so I’ve taken the opportunity to read things that I wouldn’t normally consider. Since Christmas, when a few kindly souls gave us books and book tokens as gifts – my fairly eclectic reading list has included The Psychopath Test, The Happiness Project, Walk the Lines, Catching Babies, and The Book Thief.
By some twist of fate, the one box of books that we were able to keep with us was the one that contained lots of my teenage favourites that I hadn’t looked at in years. I gave away hundreds and hundreds of books when I left home and started university, and it’s something I slightly regret now – couldn’t we all do with some Judy Blume and Paula Danziger in our lives still?! But I did hold onto a couple of dozen that I really loved like Goodnight Mr Tom and Little Women – and I’m having brilliant fun re-reading those now.
I also, thankfully, had the wherewithal to hang onto some childhood favourites – like Dear Zoo, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Harriet and the Rollercoaster, and I Want to See The Moon – which I can now enjoy reading with DorkySon. When DorkySon was just a few days old, the community midwife came round for a home visit and got a vicious fit of the giggles when she spotted him propped on DorkyDad’s knee, looking intently at a cloth book full of shapes and squiggles. “Don’t you think you’re starting him a bit early?” she said.
But honestly, I don’t think there is such a thing as too early. I think the joy you can get from reading is hard to match, and if you don’t want your kids to be intimidated by books then they need to feel comfortable with them from an early age. It thrills me that now he’s nearly three, DorkySon is such a huge fan of books. He would happily sit on the sofa all day if there were someone willing to read with him.
Now that we’ve got his love of reading covered, we just need to work on his dazzling smile. If he ever has his photo taken for a local newspaper then I want to make sure he looks a bit more enthusiastic than I did…