Just to prove that Xander loves reading just as much as his Mummy does, here’s a photo of him engrossed in a book this afternoon. If you ask him to point to the car or the motorbike, he’ll pick them out right away whilst making “vroom vroom” noises. I’m pleased to say that he often pulls out his books and opens them himself, often abandoning other toys to do so, and will happily sit flicking through them for ten or fifteen minutes at a time. And, of course, he always gets a bedtime story…
According to an article published on ITV.com last week, literacy levels amongst teens in the UK are dropping dramatically, with almost 1/3rd of 14-year-olds failing to reach the expected standards of reading for their age group.
Apparently, boys fare worse than girls in these statistics, making me wonder, is reading seen more and more as a feminine pastime? If membership on the Book Club Forum is anything to go by, women are certainly more drawn towards book discussion in a forum setting, as, although I don’t have the exact percentages to hand, the women far outweigh the men – but there are men on there waving the flag for male readers everywhere.
We also have a small, but growing, membership at the younger end of the range. Again, there are more girls than boys, but there are definitely boys on board who are happily reading and discussing the books they enjoy. This begs another question though – is reading something that we get into at a young age and keep up, or is it generally something we learn to do for pleasure at a later age?
I don’t have an answer to that one, being someone who cannot remember a time when I didn’t love reading (according to my parents I shunned toys in favour of books from an early age and was reading to myself long before I started school). I do, however, know many people my age and older who love to read and many others who are younger and never got bitten by the bug (please bear in mind, this is a generality – I know folks my own age who never pick up a book if they can help it, and people of all ages who adore nothing more than curling up with a novel).
So, are the reading rates in youngsters today affected by things to which we didn’t have access when we were kids – i.e. computer games? It would be easy to claim that factor as finite – so many children love computers and games, and this has been cited as the reason for many changes in modern children, from childhood obesity to attention deficit disorder (i.e. children sit around playing games with flashing images rather than playing outside and getting some exercise, and become unable to focus on things for longer periods of time).
I’d be inclined to go against this argument – after all, although the older generations didn’t have computer games, we did have books and television. Personally, I quite often took a book outside with me and would sit contended for hours, lost in another world, rather than running about with my friends. I was a tiny, skinny little thing, so sitting about didn’t make me fat, that’s for sure! My sister loved to watch cartoons – they lasted all of 5-minutes each in many cases, which doesn’t need a great attention span. She never had ADD, but she did have dyslexia (hence, she didn’t read as a child – although in recent years she has begun reading for pleasure).
I was very pleased to come across an article today on the BBC news that refutes the “evidence” that youngsters don’t read (it specifically cites examples for boys, but it could just as easily have included girls). There is evidence that children today are reading just as much as we did in my day – they’re just reading different things. Computer games often require a high level of reading ability and understanding in order to progress to the next level, and graphic novels can ignite an interest in more “conventional” forms of literature. And there are books that appeal to the youth market too – in recent years we’ve seen the phenomenon of Harry Potter sweep not just the UK, but the whole world, and J.K. Rowling is not the only author igniting the reading passions of the younger generation, although she might be the most famous contemporary example.
So, I’ve resolved not to worry too much about the reading habits of my own child (due next month). He or she will most definitely be exposed to books from the very start (in fact, I already read to my bump), and there will also be a “lead by example” atmosphere as my non-reading hubby will be encouraged to read to our child (especially if we have a boy – “books can be for both boys and girls” will be the message), but if computer games and graphic novels encourage my kid to read more, then I’m not going to complain. Just because the educational system in this country doesn’t count them in their educational statistics, doesn’t mean they can’t be counted towards overall ability and understanding and lead to a love of literature through other avenues.
It is said that things happen in threes and that certainly seems to be true of weddings. Personally, I have been a bridesmaid three times (although, in order to beat the “three times a bridesmaid, never a bride” curse, the third time was after my own wedding!), and the year I got married, I attended three weddings (including my own).
Once again, the wedding bells are ringing and over the course of the next year I shall again be attending three weddings!
In November, my step-sister, Kirsty, will be marrying her fiancé, Colin, and I shall be attending with Tadpole in tow (Dale won’t be able to make it on this occasion, as he has no more holidays available due to booking them all around the time that Tadpole is due and they’re getting hitched in Northumberland).
In January, my Dad will be remarrying and Sandra (or “Stepsie” as we call her) will officially become my Step-Mum (and I shall be forever grateful that’s she’s lovely and not a “Wicked Stepmother” type!). Their wedding will be in Braemar immediately after the New Year.
Then, next summer, my very good friend, Kerry, will marry Stuart. I’ve been excitedly listening to all her plans as they’ve been made (weddings are always exciting, aren’t they?) and then yesterday she dropped a bombshell on me – I was asked if I would do a reading at their ceremony!
My flabber has never been so gasted in all my life!
I feel honoured and delighted to have been asked to play a role in their Big Day and, of course, have very happily agreed. Kerry has also said that what I read will be entirely up to me – I can choose something to read by someone else, or I can write something myself!
The thought of the latter quite terrifies me, so I think I’ll be spending time looking for a lovely piece about love, marriage and companionship – something suitably romantic, yet not gushy, and of course, something utterly beautiful. But there is so much to choose from! Will I search through the complete works of Shakespeare and use some of his beautifully penned lines? Or will I go with one of the great romantic poets? Or one of the classic romantic writers? Or should I hunt through more contemporary pieces?
I’m rather thankful I have a year and a vast library to leaf through till I find something perfect – and I shall very much looking forward to reading at the wedding!