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Saturday, March 13, 2010
Getting a child to read
The average number of blog posts achieved by most new bloggers before they lose interest and/or inspiration is six. This post is to let you know that I haven’t reached that point.
It’s just the book I’m reading at the moment is a 470-page monster and as I’m stuck into editing my own novel as well, it’s taking me a while to get through it. And I’m dying to blog about it, so watch this space. It’s a fascinating object.
Meanwhile I am wondering how I can get my seven and a half-year old daughter to start reading. By which I mean free reading - on her own, without help or encouragement. Proper nose in a book/the house could fall down reading.
It’s not that she doesn’t like books. It’s just she sees them as something that I read to her. Ideally with a lot of bright pictures. Chapter books with a few scrappy line drawings every six pages just don’t hold her attention.
How is it possible that I have a child like this? I’ve been obsessed with books ever since my father read me Paddington Bear. I laughed so hard at the part where he climbs onto the table in the station café and slips on a cream bun, I fell out of bed.
I can clearly remember the moment, shortly after, when I realised that this source of hilarity was trapped inside the pages of the book forever and would be there any time I felt like having a laugh. Shazam!
From that moment on I read everything I could lay my hands on, saved all my pocket money to buy books, knew every inch of the local children’s library, and was a founder member of the Puffin Club.
To encourage a similar passion I have read to my daughter since before she could talk and filled her environment with tempting books at every stage. Plus, she has grown up surrounded by people who share my love of reading.
One of her godmothers is an eminent publisher, I’ve lost count of the books another one has written, and the third is my favourite book-discussion pal, who has also written a novel. Her three godfathers are equally reading orientated, so she has always been surrounded by book talk, in a house where you can hardly move for the bloody things.
Yet while contemporaries at her school from far less literary backgrounds romp through the entire Beast Quest, Mr Gum and even Harry Potter series, it’s all I can do to get Peggy to read Olivia to herself. She does have favourites – Eloise would be near the top – but she’s just not a reader.
I blame myself, of course. I’m a mother! That’s what we do… But seriously, while surrounding her with books, I fear I have also let her watch far too much television. As an only child, I thought it was company for her, but I fear it is has zapped her concentration span.
But I keep trying. Early attempts at chapter books – ghastly things about Susan the Skating Fairy , Penny the Pony Fairy and Deidre the Dreary Fairy – just put her off. I could see why. They were the childhood equivalent of Barbara Cartland.
The best success so far were the Ottoline books, which are pleasing small hardbacks with as much illustration as text and kooky characters, but while she did read both of them to herself, it failed to ignite an ongoing reading habit.
I would do love to share my most enduring pleasure with her. So if anyone has any tips – or words of encouragement - to share, I would be deeply grateful.
It's been a diverse career. Not many people have written for Allure and (the late-lamented...) Gourmet mag.
I've been a magazine editor, an op ed columnist on a broadsheet newspaper, and for years covered the fashion shows in Paris, Milan etc.
But while I shifted between the worlds of food, fashion and current affairs, there was one overriding passion: books.
Now I write them - five novels published, with another due out this year, and several books of journalism.
Here I write about them.