Looking for one positive thing that came out of our lockdown from March, it’s this. My eldest granddaughter and I began reading together, every morning for half an hour. Living over 100 miles apart, we Skyped. For a while previously, I had been reading to her at bedtime. “Call Nanny,” she could say over the Alexa that her dad had set up in her bedroom – and my phone would ring, her dad having put the app on my phone.
For most of her primary school years, my granddaughter has been a rather reluctant reader. Sadly, like too many other children, she would read for functional purposes but not really for pleasure. While expanding her knowledge through non-fiction is fine, I couldn’t help but regret what she has also been missing.
By starting with fiction touching her passions, including dragons and wolves, my hope has been to shift the possibilities that she sees in reading. The books that we have read over the last few months (most in the picture) have branched out from training dragons to exploring wildness, whether in beasts or humans. All the stories have reflected our need for human kindness.
We have travelled far back in time with Michelle Paver’s Wolf Brother (Chronicles of Ancient Darkness) to some 200 years ago with Joan Aiken’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, and into the future with S F Said’s Phoenix. We have also travelled from recent history with Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight Mr Tom and John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, and into the present with Onjali Raúf’s The Boy at the Back of the Class.
While reading, we have not gone in for any long discussions of the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’. But we have certainly held our breath together, hoping our heroes/heroines will make their way through whatever challenge has been thrown in their path. It has been especially pleasing has been to see my granddaughter bring characters to life off the page through her use of voice. I’m crossing fingers that in her new secondary school she will find her way into a drama club. Of course, with Covid19 still lurking unseen, who knows when schools will be able to operate drama clubs again safely?
So although 2020 will forever be an ‘annus horribilis’, I shall also remember how it threw up this unexpected time of shared reading for pleasure with a young loved one. While stuck at home, thanks to technology, we have been on some extraordinary journeys together. Most fundamentally, however, I thank the amazing tech of the ‘book’ itself – squiggles printed on the page – and the imagination of the writers who came up with those squiggles. There are just so many more books I would love to share…