IT’S MY LIFE

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Parenting -

IF you saw me to­day, you might no­tice I’m wear­ing my ‘don’t mess with me’ face. What’s both­er­ing me? Could it be my chil­dren? Or yer man? Maybe even the dog? No, on this oc­ca­sion they’re en­tirely in­no­cent. It was Face­book.

Yes, to­day Face­book and I fell out when I read yet an­other post telling me: ‘The love of read­ing is one of the great­est gifts a par­ent can give a child’.

“Rub­bish,” I shouted at my lap­top, be­fore storm­ing off in a rage.

Why so cross, you may won­der? Do I not agree with it? Well, I did whole­heart­edly agree with it once upon a time, but that was be­fore I had chil­dren of my own. I even blamed the par­ents of chil­dren who didn’t en­joy read­ing for not mak­ing enough ef­fort. Af­ter all, was it not the ef­forts of my own mother which had in­flu­enced me?

I could never for­get the bed­time sto­ries she told my brother and I as we sat on her lap as chil­dren, so vivid they ei­ther ter­ri­fied us or led us to tears. Or the trips to the li­brary ev­ery fort­night, not to men­tion the joy of cy­cling to the shop to buy our weekly comic. From an

Three out of the four of our chil­dren barely read and I sus­pect two would re­turn my gift if they had the re­ceipt

early age, I was hooked and re­mem­ber us­ing a torch to read un­der the cov­ers, long af­ter I was sup­posed to be asleep, one ear on high alert for the foot­steps of a par­ent on the stairs.

Fi­nally, as a mother-to-be, it was my turn to pass on this gift. I couldn’t wait to share it with my own chil­dren.

One by one they ar­rived, and I did all my mother had done. I rel­ished ev­ery minute re­liv­ing my child­hood as I read old favourites to my lit­tle ones, along with a whole li­brary of new ti­tles.

I roped yer man in and rarely a night went by with­out one or both of us read­ing a bed­time story, or bet­ter still mak­ing up our own. Our chil­dren had bed­rooms with book­shelves full of books and choos­ing what story to be read was se­ri­ous busi­ness.

By the time we’d fin­ished read­ing to the last child, we’d been read­ing sto­ries for 20 years. Yes, 20 years. We’d cov­ered ev­ery­thing from hard­back baby books and the dreaded win­dowopen­ing books, right up to Enid Bly­ton, Roald Dahl, JK Rowl­ing and An­thony Horowitz.

And what re­ward did I get for tak­ing the time to hand de­liver the gift of read­ing to them for all those years? Three out of the four of our chil­dren barely read and I sus­pect two would re­turn my gift if they had the re­ceipt.

So you may now un­der­stand why I rage when I read posts about giv­ing our chil­dren ‘the pre­cious gift that is the love of read­ing’. It didn’t work. Maybe my chil­dren are ex­cep­tional? Or could it be that ad­ven­tures in books pale in com­par­i­son to real life en­ter­tain­ment via smart­phones and on­line? Or is it as sim­ple as, my chil­dren do not en­joy read­ing books?

And you know what? They are nor­mal. They are fun, ed­u­cated, ar­tic­u­late, in­ter­est­ing, and imag­i­na­tive in­di­vid­u­als. I equate them to those chil­dren who have sporty par­ents but who grow up un­in­ter­ested in sport. They are who they are. They know how won­der­ful a story can be and what it is like to lose them­selves in a fic­tional life. Yet they chose not to read. And that is their choice.

How­ever, hav­ing said all that, the truth is, a small part of me will never give up and so there’s ev­ery chance, as I’m so well in with Santa, that a book will fall into their stock­ings this Christ­mas and ev­ery Christ­mas to come. And who knows, maybe some­day they might even ask for one?

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