The first page of a book that I read was Dyrene i Hakkebakkeskoven – a Danish children’s book about the animals in a forest. I had memorised the entire page so that I could impress my mum with my extraordinary reading skills. I must have been six or seven.
Now my son is seven, and in his school, they have made learning to read a top priority. Obviously, they have other classes, but it’s the reading that is the most important. My son has mad mathematical skills, several years advanced, but reading, well, to begin with, he kind of lost his patience with it a lot, because: “I’ll NEVER learn to read” followed by exasperated gasps and gestures, usually with a dramatic fall into his bed, face first.
What a drama queen! I wonder where he gets it from?
But slowly, he’s getting better, and my mother-in-law, who is a retired teacher, is very impressed with his reading skills – although, she is of course his grandmother, so she might be adding on a little extra.
I just hope that when he cracks the reading code entirely that he’ll stick with it. That he’ll continue reading, and thus explore his imagination, build his vocabulary and exercise his brain. And I’m sure he will, because he is very curious by nature.
I’ve read to my kids before they were too small to even care. They didn’t know what the words meant, but I read to them anyway. When I was a kid I belonged to a children’s book club and I’ve saved all those books, mostly Grimm fairytales and Disney stories, and they are now among the books I read for my kids.
“OMG, it’s too looooong!”
But then we started and he soon got caught up in the story, and now he brings home books from school by the same author for us to read.
My daughter is four and for Christmas she wants: “a Barbie car and a book.” She sees her brother learning to read and wants to do the same. So she’ll memorise some of the sentences when we’ve read and pretend to be reading. She loves her bedtime stories, and in the rare occasions when it gets too late for a story, tears are shed and drama commences. Seriously, where do they get it from?
I hope they both continue to find books fascinating throughout their life. I’m doing my bit by buying books, bringing my kids to the library, reading to and with them, and I read myself. Some of their books are ragged and slightly torn; those are their favourites.
I don’t mind that books get a bit worn. I like that you can see that they are being read. I’ve read some in my personal library three-four-five times and it shows. I have a friend from school who is the total opposite. It was always a pest borrowing books from her, because she didn’t want the back of her books broken - still doesn’t. She likes her books looking neat and new.
Back in sixth grade, I started to look outside of the children’s library towards the packed bookshelves in my parents’ living room and I stumbled upon The House of a Thousand Lanterns by Victoria Holt. Oooh, there was love in there. Kissing and stuff. I read more books by Victoria Holt, introduced them to my friend from school – the neat one. We’d lie on her bed and take turns to read out loud.
Later, we found the La Bicyclette bleue-series by Régine Deforges and it got a little bit sexier, but it was also about war; it was horrible, educational, entertaining, breath taking and emotional. We’d read in our breaks, sometimes to each other, sometimes silently side by side. We were very different, my friend and I, she - an extrovert and me - a super shy introvert. But we had books in common and we’re still friends. I don’t borrow her books any more, thought, as I can’t relax and usually always get thumb cramps and shoulder pains from trying too hard not to break the back of the book.
I don’t swallow books like I used to anymore. I just don’t have the time between my day job, writing myself, and raising my kids, who, for some annoying reason, demand food on the table Every. Bloody. Day! And I don’t waste my time on books I don’t get into straight away. Maybe I’ll pick it up again later, like years later, and it’ll instantly suck me in. Sometimes it won’t. But when I do find a good book, my family practically doesn’t see me for a day or two. And with Kindle, I can also sneak myself to read a few pages at work with the Kindle app on my mobile phone. That is so brilliant! But please don’t tell my boss.
Neel’s real name is actually Lene – a Danish author writing in English under the pen name Neel Kay. Neel is an anagram for Lene.
Author of the fantasy-series The Witch of Luna Hill. Part two, The Witch’s Storm, will be live on Amazon on 19th November.