Thursday 7 November 2019

The Final #ReadItTorial of 2019 - "For the love of reading"

Do you still read to your children at bedtime? We're still hanging on in there, even though C is at that 'difficult tweenager' stage of standing on her own two feet and establishing her own identity, her own strong will and (as my grandmother would always say) "her determined chin".

Looking back at the years of blogging, many thousands of the books we've read, enjoyed and reviewed over the course of doing this have ended up as 'bedtime favourites' - Books that we've returned to again and again. At home both my wife and I have a very different regime for when it's 'our bedtime' (which at this stage of C's life is really down to whose turn it is not only to read at bedtime, but to badger C into not 'dragging bedtime out' - something she's an olympic champion at).

So my wife usually chips away at longer chapter books at bedtime while I read picture books with her. The odd thing is that we have a well-stocked bookcase of "Keepers" that we refer to again and again, and it feels like a rare occurence that new books will end up in the "Keeper" stack, to join those well-loved titles we've returned to many, many times.

A "Keeper" is characterised by many different things:

  • It has to have a story that you can never really grow tired of. Very few 'moral message' books make the keeper pile because once they've spent their one trick, they're done, you don't need to learn and re-learn their lessons. 
  • It has to have something 'new' more or less every time you look at it. This is where a lot of illustrator-led titles win out, where illustrators have poured on the levels of detail, the clever and deft little touches, the in-jokes, the easter-eggs and the cameos that keep us returning to books again and again. 
  • A keeper can sometimes evolve with the reader. On first reading you can think it means one thing, but on subsequent readings, layered subtleties come to the fore - often ideas or theories that the author probably never had when they wrote the book, but we interpret and enjoy decoding in our own way. 
  • Sometimes a keeper enters our hallowed bookcase space purely because it's a brilliant potted slice of entertainment. Like a movie you always watch on TV even though you've seen it a million times on your well-worn DVD or Blu Ray, it's there because even though you know the outcome, you're in it for the thrill of anticipating and recognising those moments. 
One of the most important lessons we've all learned as a family over the years of C growing up is that our most valuable resource - our time - is also our most scarce. We've never viewed time spent with her as 'making time' - more as being time that is enjoyed by all, an experience to build on, one day to talk about or reminisce about with her, or perhaps even one day her kids if she has any. Amongst those treasured moments we'll inevitably talk about books - as we have done about books we both enjoyed as kids, bought new copies of to enjoy with her. 

I wonder how she'll talk about books in the future? She's a reader for life - at least we hope she is. She still grabs a book rather than her phone when she's kicking around waiting for us, or has a moment to herself while we're cleaning the house, cooking or doing other mundane stuff adults do. 

I wonder, out of all the keepers, which books she'll reminisce about. Which ones, when it inevitably comes to that point in a youngster's life when they have the huge clearout of all the toys, books and other stuff they've accrued before they move out, I wonder which ones she'll shed tears over parting with or which ones she'll quietly stash away to share with her own kids?

Some day, perhaps very soon, I'll pile up all the current keepers and do a huge mammoth post on them. It might make for interesting reading after 10 years of doing this. 

To those of you who've dipped into these #ReadItTorial posts over the last few years, I thank you for popping by just to read the ramblings of a book fanatic. It's been a genuine pleasure chatting about some of the subjects covered in these. Thank you all, and we look forward to catching up with you again on the blog, on twitter or in person sometime soon.