The Reality of Raising Bookish Children
I always hoped I would raise children who would be as passionate about books as I am. I couldn’t wait to share the books with them that I loved as a child, and was especially excited at the thought of them learning to read independently, entering their own new and imagined worlds before lights-out each night.
It’s fair to say that I now have one (and a half) full-fledged bookworms in the house. Whilst I’m completely in awe of their capacity to read, the reality of raising bookish children does not come without its challenges.
Distraction and Delay
Having bookish children inevitably means you struggle to get anywhere on time. Ever. I am forever herding my eldest away from the book, or magazine, or even junk mail that distracts him from the task in hand. If I leave him to get dressed for school without intervention, he’s likely to be found lying on his bed in his pants, reading about the 50 Most Vile Villains in History. I didn’t think I’d ever be caught telling my own children to ‘put the book down’ (or worse, hiding books), but sometimes it’s the only way to ensure we ever leave the house.
I’ve become very friendly with my librarians over the past few years. Not only because they are exceptionally helpful and lovely, but because I’m constantly apologising for the late return/constant renewing of borrowed books. It’s not that they get left for three weeks without being read, it’s generally because they will want to be read again. And then again, before being taken back. Or sometimes it’s because they’ve been read, and then mysteriously disappear into the black hole that is my house (see below).
Books Always, Everywhere
It’s a good job I love libraries, because my house often resembles one. There are literally piles of books everywhere, from the kitchen, to the stairs, to the bathroom. I’ve always been very particular about how my own books are stored and displayed, but I’ve had to relax my compulsive behaviours in this area, where my children’s books are concerned. I now accept that every surface, in every room, has its own book storing system, and I’m pretty much wasting my time trying to keep on top of it. As long as the right books eventually end up back in school bags or library bags, we’re fine.
Fact of the matter
I actively encourage my children to choose books that interest them. They are like sponges at this age. Needless to say, I am lectured - or questioned - on a daily basis on a broad range of subjects, some of which I have more knowledge than others. It’s great when your children want to share their learning with you, but there are times when you just don’t know enough about Genghis Khan, wild dogs, or Egyptian burial methods to keep up. You find yourself staying up far too late at night, reading your children’s books in a desperate attempt to always stay one step ahead.
If you have bookish children, don’t think you’ll ever be able to walk right past a ‘book sale’ sign. I’m definitely drawn into a dingy church hall by the allure of shiny books, but my children are twice as bad. We’ve acquired so many books over the years that I regularly sneak into my children’s bedrooms when they’re at school to filter some of their books for the charity shop. I’ve also been woken up more than once on a Sunday morning to attend a book sale in my son’s bedroom. (And yes, he does expect me to hand over 20p for the books that I’ve already paid for once.)
Despite all of this, I wouldn’t change my bookish children for the world. I acknowledge that I’m lucky to have children who have had the opportunity, and encouragement from their teachers, to learn to read. A good friend of ours once proclaimed that ‘you get the children you deserve’, and I think he was probably right.