I was listening to Radio 4 in the car on the way home from taking the children to school.
This was after a slight detour to the local Co-op, who, my mum informed me (by the power of giving me a tin), were reducing all their tins of Illy coffee to £3.49 each. Illy is my favourite brand, and it is bloody expensive. I pay anything from £5.50 to £6.50 a tin, and it only lasts a week. I bought six tins, all the while cackling with glee. S’better than finding a San Pellegrino well in the back garden. Result! The woman on the till clearly thought I was insane, and possibly experiencing some kind of coffee related mania.
I didn’t care.
She processed my order extra quickly, which was an unforseen bonus.
And I was outa there.
I was only half listening to the radio if I’m honest. I was far too busy preening myself about my Broughton Astley coffee mountain, when the mention of books and reading caught my attention.
I tuned in properly this time.
It was the Radio 4 Book of the Week, with an excerpt called The Right Words in the Wrong Order, written and read by the excellent Mark Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. It’s a cracker).
It is from a book called: Stop What You’re Doing and Read This!’, an anthology of writing by Haddon, Michael Rosen, Jeanette Winterson, Tim Parks and Carmen Callil, amongst others (these are the authors featured on Book of the Week) about the importance of reading and what it does for us as human beings.
Haddon was inspired. He talked about what books give us that things like film and television do not. He talked about their ability to evoke smells and tastes, to create texture, to allow us to inhabit the skin of another human being. He talked about the fact that a camera always has to be awake and alert, and because of this it cannot really capture the idleness of being, the down time, the reverie and sleep of a person’s life like words can.
In fifteen, brief and glorious minutes he awoke in me my absolute delight and pleasure in the power of the written word. It energised me more than any coffee mountain. Amazing.
Although I fear we still have some way to go with Master Oscar. Yesterday on the way to school we were talking about how quite often in schools, teachers tend to read children tried and tested books and authors (like Roald Dahl for example), because they know that they will be on safe ground. I was saying that I think it is a shame that some teachers aren’t more adventurous. They have such a platform to introduce children to new writing, and there are some amazingly talented children’s authors out there who don’t always get a look in. Authors whose work deserves to be read to a wider audience.
I was saying to the children how much I loved it when they introduce me to books that I wouldn’t normally read and I enjoy them (although Tallulah’s persistent attempts to get me to read more Jacqueline Wilson books are not falling on fruitful ground. I’ve read two. That is enough). I said that I hoped that as Oscar’s reading skills got better and better, that he would be able to introduce me to new authors, and that maybe, as he was a boy, they would be very different to the kinds of books his sisters lend me.
He looked absolutely stricken and said: ‘But I’m not going to be a teacher when I grow up, so I won’t have to read then.’
I said: ‘Some people do read for pleasure you know? We all do at home.’
He was stunned. Genuinely stunned.
It’s going to take a while isn’t it?