6 October 2012

Reading for Pleasure

When our daughters were younger, we read to them every night, either myself or my wife would read a picture book or a Ladybird or a Disney story and as they got older they chose the book for their night-time ritual, and as there is a three and half years between them, the eldest had a time to herself before her baby sister got to join in.

There were a lot of repeats, one that sticks in my mind is a picture book called Tall Inside, about a girl who is, you’ve guessed, small, she meets a clown in a travelling circus who walks on stilts, you can guess the rest. We borrowed and reborrowed that book from the library so often we ended up ordering it from the bookshop so that we would have our own copy, one of the few picture books to survive the years it’s still in the house somewhere.

After awhile I introduced ‘chapter’ books, Stig of the Dump, Roald Dahl and the whole of The Chronicles of Narnia, starting with The Magician’s Nephew through to The Last Battle. Basically I was using it as an excuse to read books that either I hadn’t read myself or hadn’t read for many years and couldn’t quite remember them. I tried to read Harry Potter, but I’m no Stephen Fry, in many ways I’m no Stephen Fry, and I found it difficult to read it aloud and had to give up part way in, leaving it to them to read it in their own time. Obviously I read Dickens’ Christmas stories at the appropriate time, my favourite being A Cricket on the Hearth.

This ritual eventually faded away, ending with a whimper rather than a bang, with no fanfare, no closing ceremony (The Christmas tradition lasted longer than the day-to-day readings, but eventually went the same way). They continued to read the bedtime stories themselves without us, well in a way…

It’s a nature/nurture conundrum, both girls brought up in the same house, same rules, and same bedtime reading habit. However, while the youngest reads with a voracious appetite that I recognise, she has a reading list for her A-Level English and has created another herself of books she wants to read, the eldest reads, as many adults do, a book or two while on holiday, however, she listens to a story tape each night, maybe an unconscious echo of her childhood bedtime ritual.

Growing up there were four of us, three brothers and a sister, myself and my youngest brother read anything and everything in the house, my middle brother and sister never had the same passion and now, typical of many people, read biographies or best sellers sporadically, whereas we continue to delve into the deepest and dusty corners of classic literature. We were all brought up in a house that our mother filled with paperbacks that ebbed and flowed from jumble sales and the like, that had a collection of Jennings, Just William and Famous Five books, yet only half of us got the bug and continued to read for pleasure, so what happens to set one person off on the yellow brick road to the wonderful world of literature, and leaves another at the crossroads?


  1. Both my kids like to read... But I know what you mean. Both my parents read a large variety of books. We grew up with books but only two out of three sisters like reading... Maybe we should do a survey on Twitter?

    By the way it was my husband who did the reading aloud around here. He managed the Harry Potters, His Dark Material, some of Neil Gaiman, The Hobbit, and some miscellaneous as well as Dr. Seuss when they were younger. I can still quote Green Eggs and Ham by heart. My daughter wanted over & over HoneyBunny FunnyBunny try saying that three times fast...



  2. I stumbled over all the strange words and names in Harry Potter, I read most of the books afterwards, just don't have the Churchill skill with words. Gave me the chance to read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe which I'd not read before, and I was pulled up by not mentioning youngest's favourite book "Phoebe and the Hot Water Bottles" in this weeks burbling!

  3. Funny enough my father in law, who is Dutch, decided to read Harry Potter in order to practice his English. He enjoyed the funny words very much. Ironically, when he tried to read one of the books in Dutch, he hated it because they had changed all the funny words and Hermione's name! Weird but true.

    Phoebe and the Hot Water Bottles? really? oh well, there is no predicting taste, though in all fairness, Honeybunny Funnybunny was about a little sister that is constantly annoyed by her older brother and my daughter could so relate. The older brother was called P.J. Funnybunny. I can't believe I still remember that...

  4. Ha! in my next blog I mention the idea of reading a book in a foreign language to learn that language.

    She might have started on Hot Water Bottles but gone onto Jane Eyre or Grapes of Wrath, whereas eldest is on audio tapes, who knows how it all works, I was brought up on Jennings or Enid Blyton, can't remember a word now.