This evening in our house, a miracle took place. For approximately one hour the TV was switched off, nobody was playing the Xbox, and the Youtubers were mercifully silenced.(And it was nothing at all to do with the fact the wi-fi connection was down!)
Instead, what was happening was that Toby was reading. Not for homework. Not to find out how to perform a football skill. And not because he’d been coerced into it by me. He was finishing a book he’d chosen to read because he was enjoying it.
This is an important milestone for us. Although Toby enjoys books, he’s always preferred me reading them and has shown reluctance to read for himself. When we’ve worked through reading homework it’s been a painful, torturous experience for both of us and I questioned whether he may be struggling with reading even though his teachers judged him suitable for the top group.
Latterly, I began to identify that confidence was Toby’s issue, particularly when reading in front of me. So I exercised a bit more patience when reading with him and it paid off. Increasingly he’s started to express a tentative interest in reading himself but would frequently give up when confronted with an unknown word.
But my heart almost broke into pieces when he announced that he didn’t want me to read the book we’d recently chosen together as our bedtime story, Football Academy. He’s fast approaching seven so it’s inevitable that he will outgrow our bedtime story ritual but I thought I had at least a few months more. However, I quickly patched my broken heart up with pride when he announced that he wanted to take Football Academy to school to read it there instead. He’s now finished it – all by himself.
I’m absolutely chuffed to bits but not because I want to force my own interests upon Toby, or turn him into some sort of mini-me (perish the thought). It’s important to make that clear. Like swimming and riding a bike, reading is a life skill not an interest. Once you master reading you can access whatever you’re interested in with greater ease, and reach a whole range of untapped interests or ideas. That’s why I want him to fall in love with books.
Discovering how to enjoy reading will make learning easier. No university course can be completed without books, not many skills can be mastered without opening an instruction manual and creative abilities are usually enhanced by reading around your art. So, if you love reading, you’ll find it easier to master whatever you choose to do. You can only gain so much depth from YouTube instruction video or a Google search.
Besides, an enjoyment of books means you’ll never feel alone. When you get the right book it can be the perfect companion. By nurturing a love of the written world we’re equipping our children to cope with the emotional demands of life as well as the practical.
So if I get nothing else right as a parent, I’ll be proud of the fact that I’ve instilled the joy of reading into my son. It will hopefully become a lifelong habit that will carry him through the many ups and downs that life inevitably takes.
Keep it up, Toby!