I love books. I love words. I may not have the biggest vocabulary, and often get spelling muddled —
‘definitely’ throws me every time. But I love their power and I believe that the simplest words are actually the most powerful. Love and hate, for instance. Us. You. I. Sorry. They are the words that can strike us hard, for better or for worse.
Naturally, I want my kids to love words too. Especially when my youngest has been known to use some of the less respectable words on offer!
I’d started by taking my daughter to our local library’s story time when she was 5 months old. I would sit amongst all the other tired parents, madly in love and determined to be doing everything ‘right’. We had this wonderful and colourful librarian who always reminded us flailing parents, “You’re never alone if you have a book.”
Maybe I felt alone, maybe I’d known lonely too well, but I was desperate for my daughter to love books like I did!
A friend once posted a photo of her son reading. It was titled, ‘Learning the fate of Dumbledore’. It captured the very beauty of why we read. It captured exactly what I wanted my kids to feel. He was so focused, so incredulous, so hurt. He was fully immersed in Harry Potter’s world. Watching the movie would be like sitting on the edge of a pool, dipping a toe in at best. But reading the words of the story, had him completely submerged. The ability to live and feel from experiences we only read, is uniquely human. So though his young heart was devastated, and that is a strange thing to wish on a kid, it also meant he was all in and his brain was firing.
To a book lover, words like J.K Rowling’s are paths that take you along to amazing places. I love seeing kids step into the world of literacy outside of Disney books and Mr Men. When they choose to read over play, it’s a pretty special rite of passage. It’s swapping one imaginary world for another. But the second one has feeling and teaches loss, empathy, love and friendship.
Unfortunately, this is not for everyone. My son — not a book lover.
When I told him we were going to the last story time session for the year, he cheered, “That’s good, because I hate going to the library!” I’d thought that if I take him enough, he’d love books. So far, it’s a fail. If a book doesn’t mention bums or farts, he’s generally not interested.
But recently I accepted this, because when reading a classic to my little girl I learnt for certain that I had another book lover in my company. It wasn’t her reading books on her own and getting excited over new stories that gave it away. Nor that she is jealous not to go to story time. It was when we were halfway through Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and her anticipation to hear whether Charlie Bucket had found the last golden ticket had her sitting up on her elbows. As I got closer to the revelation, I watched her out of the corner of my eye, barely able to contain my smile, as her still face waited to hear the news. When I read the line that revealed the golden ticket, she gasped and laughed with delight. It was at this moment that I knew that my own little girl had also won a golden ticket — she won the pure joy and adventure in any book she chooses to pick up.
Our local libraries have so much to offer. Even for those whose hearts have not yet been won by books. Like them on Facebook, join the mailing list, pop in with your kids. Use the service that is designed with you in mind. Our kids are encouraged to read something every day. Even on holidays – as trying as that sounds!
It’s free, so even if they don’t win the golden ticket, what have you got to lose?