Thursday, 30 September 2010

Out of the mouths

Had a conversation today that sounded like the set up of a joke; maybe one of those self-conscious jokes often told by teachers and clergy that you just know are too convenient to be true!

But I know the teller and she was there. My friend's grandson has just started at school. He takes after his father, quite serious, focused, academic and anxious. The first two days he trotted happily into the classroom without a backwards glance at Mummy and Daddy. Then on the third day the little lad wept bitterly and gripped Daddy's hand.

His surprised gran asked him why. Why today? She reminded him that if he kept going to school, he'd soon learn to read all his favourite books for himself. Wouldn't that be fun? He already loves books and can read most three letter words he can spell out so far.

Through his tears he answered, "I went on Monday. Then I went again on Tuesday. But I STILL CAN'T READ!"

A child driving himself to achieve a little more each day, so eager to unlock all the secrets those books are still hiding from him! I wanted just to say a "thank you" to all parents like my friends in this little scenario, who sow the seeds of love of books in the hearts of our children.

Books are as natural as breathing to children who are surrounded by stories, illustrations, the sight and sound and feel of books, the rhythm and rolling kaleidoscope of words from the womb. Not always; some children need so much more to help them make friends with the world of the written and spoken word, so reading can come along and tickle them into joy with all its textures and exciting new tastes.

We all love to listen to the funny true things children say.
As writers we can learn to listen carefully to their voices, to make the children who giggle and play in our fiction really live, or help those for whom we weave tales be drawn in to a dancing web of delightful sounds they will never forget.

The next day, my friend's grandson ran into school again with no long teary goodbyes. There were just too many exciting books to handle and decode, no time to lose!

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