Shea Tomkins

Bray People - - NEWS -

THE GOOD woman and I were sit­ting watch­ing RTE's The Takeover the other night, try­ing to un­der­stand why any em­ployee would choose na­tional tele­vi­sion to launch a broad­side against their boss when the sit­ting room door opened and in walked the young lad.

Both he and the younger lad had been tucked away for the night sev­eral hours be­fore, but lately he has dis­cov­ered the joy of books and has been in­sa­tiably munch­ing his way through any piece of fic­tion for kids with a semi-in­ter­est­ing be­gin­ning, mid­dle and end.

This time, how­ever, he got more than he had bar­gained for.

Re­cently, he got his hands on a book that his 12-year-old cousin had left be­hind from her last visit. While we thought he was sleep­ing, he had been spend­ing a few hours work­ing his way through the comic story, which ended on a very poignant note.

‘ The doc­tors have said Gangsta Granny won't make Christ­mas,' he told us, clearly distraught, and seek­ing some words of re­as­sur­ance.

A gob­s­macked good woman looked at me, and I scram­bled my brain to find the right words for the sit­u­a­tion.

The book, writ­ten by Bri­tain's Got Talent's David Wal­liams, is di­rected at older chil­dren and while cancer may now be a word that adults hear on a daily ba­sis, when it comes to be­ing able to deal with the death of a char­ac­ter you have grown to love, well, who is to put an age on that?

Af­ter com­fort­ing the lad and ex­plain­ing in the most sen­si­tive way pos­si­ble what had hap­pened to Gangsta Granny (up to that mo­ment we had no idea of her fate) I Googled a re­view of the book and saw that it is aimed at eight to twelve-year-olds, which is a year and a half out­side the age bracket into which the young lad cur­rently fits.

It also made me think about news­pa­pers that are left ly­ing around the house, and what goes through his mind when he reads tragic head­lines. Years ago I at­tended a sem­i­nar on the me­dia in Dublin and was in­formed that the read­ing skills of an aver­age ten-year-old should en­able them to read tabloids, while twelve-- year-olds should be able for broad­sheets. How­ever, there is a huge dif­fer­ence in be­ing able to read some­thing, and be­ing emo­tion­ally pre­pared to un­der­stand it.

We put the young lad back to bed and the next day the good woman took him to the book shop to get him a new book to read.

He picked out a story that was writ­ten by the foot­baller, Frank Lam­pard, about an imag­i­nary kids' foot­ball team that en­ters a com­pe­ti­tion in the Wild West. And he loved it.

He was telling his friends all about it at the weekend, and hasn't men­tioned Gangsta Granny since. Though you never know what they store away in those huge minds, in such small bod­ies.

I have learned that a more thor­ough vet­ting process is needed when­ever we see him with a book in his hand, even if life is such that there is no rule to de­ter­mine at what age you get to find out that bad things hap­pen.

Thank­fully, as guardians, we are in a priv­i­leged po­si­tion to pro­long in­no­cence in a world where it is all too rapidly taken away.

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