“My life has no purpose without books”

Helena had a moment of loud distress as we sat out side the library and I told her we couldn’t get any books out, I was only dropping books off as we are off on holiday. I like that she feels her life isn’t as good without books especially as it’s make your kid read time of year again – this is purely so they don’t slip back a level. Our national public radio station is giving us helpful suggestions on how to keep their reading up so they keep on that straight upward path to their eventual job of reading stuff so bogged down with jargon and self justification that you have to get paid to read it. I hear the worried comments from friends whose kids haven’t started reading yet. I wonder if now that Helena reads they think that I don’t have their worries… I know their worry as I remember wanting to read so desperately at 4 and not working out how to do it myself and then I had a kid who didn’t desperately want to read. I sucked up a lot of angst, even some teacher angst. But then she started to read when she knew she wanted to, she was ready, not when I was… Relax they will read when they want to not because anyone else thinks it’s time. If Helena wasn’t reading I’d still be impatiently waiting but as a bonus I’d have more power over what went in! Learning is not a straight line. In my 25 years of looking after kids I have seen all of them at some point forget what I thought they knew much to my chagrin (a word I just looked up – I really would want a dictionary on my desert island, always something new to learn). We all forget stuff. Go down a level. Sometimes when I am reading something new I know it’s knowledge that is passing through. I’m okay with that. I know where to look when it’s important. If we free ourselves of the expectation of meeting arbitrary standards made up by someone else or even ourselves we can learn when and what we want. It is liberating. I have a friend who took up ballet in her 30s. We (Helena and I) are lucky. We have food, somewhere to live, people to fall back on, we can try things… all essential for literacy. When I have literacy fails, and I regularly do, it is when I have to be somewhere at a certain time and am under stress, especially from others expectations. It really isn’t rocket science. It’s summer.

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