Monday, April 06, 2009

When I was a child... I read books

There was a recent report that children in many homes simply never see books, or reading of books, and so have no models to aspire to. It calls for new tactics and techniques to get children reading in families where books are seen as for "losers." (Can't find the link, sorry.)

Wondering if that is something so new? I grew up in a house where books were the statutory ones :- Readers' Digest condensed books; DIY and Haynes Manuals (hi, dad!); a few paperbacks (strictly for holidays); and the odd children's classic (King Solomon's Mines or Heidi) which had travelled down the family line.

I was a slow reader to start with, but caught up with my mum's endless patience, and of course, once you see those words on the page as not threats of incomprehensibility but keys into magical kingdoms, well...there was little stopping me. Every holiday my pocket money was spent on novelisations, ("Dr. Who" etc.), every trip to a big city saw me dragging the family round Midlands Educational (there were no Waterstones in those days.) Before that, of course, there was the library. So when tonight I was just thinking, I'd love to start reading a book, but one that wouldn't hurt either my eyes or my brain, the book that jumped in front of me was a memory from those days.

"Ninety-nine dragons" by Barbara Sleigh sees a young boy try and get to sleep by counting dragons instead of sheep, but the dragons then come alive in the dream, across the eiderdown fields of his half-sleep. I must have borrowed it on rotation from the library. It had pictures, I remember, but it was the story I think that captured me. When I googled it just, that half-memory of dragons also made me think of "counting sheep" - and it was the combination that brought up the book. There's not a picture of it by the looks of it, and I might have to have a nostalgic purchase from Abebooks to bring it back to life (a little like the book itself). I'm absolutely certain that's the book.

...and it's so me, isn't it. I can just imagine my dad asking me to get to sleep by counting sheep, and me saying "no, daddy, I'm going to count dragons." "Dragons?" he'd say. "Sheep are boring!" I'd say, and begin "one dragon, two dragon..."


Jim Murdoch said...

Before my daughter was born I had already bought her over 100 books and I am pleased to say the investment has paid off. I was born into a house with two parents who never read any fiction - and my mother barely read at all (too busy bring us up). I was never actively discouraged from reading but once childhood was past (and I had learned to read) the reading of fiction was generally frowned on. How the hell did I ever become a writer? One has to wonder.

Adrian Slatcher said...

My mum and dad were great actually - books weren't a problem, they just didn't (and don't) read them themselves that much.

ThePopesWife said...

Oddly enough, the reading of books in our house is greatly encouraged. That does not mean that anyone has the "time" to do it with. (Despite the fact that they have the time to watch television.) My brother and sister absolutely refuse to even pick one up, but my mother and I have a passion for them. We're both collecting for our own libraries. I just think it's interesting that encouraging one to read does not necessarily mean they will. Which is sad considering how many people there are out there who can't read but would like to.

Adrian Slatcher said...

Its kind of my point Mrs. Pope, people have always chosen to read or not to read - my sister did an english degree same as me but reads on holidays, for study purposes, and to the children.