Monday, 2 April 2012

War of Words

My seven-year old son is unwillingly acquiring literacy. He loves the spoken word. He hoards unusual nouns and adjectives that strike his fancy as he hoards chocolate coins and cotton wool buds and he emits them randomly at startled visitors.

Written words, however, are enemies to be wrestled into submission or mangled into a new, less intimidating form. 'Children' looms menacingly at him off the page of his school reading book. He stares at the word in fright for a moment, then 'Trees' he pronounces, and hurries on to the more biddable conjunctions.

I am thrilled, therefore, when he announces that he is going to take up novel- reading in bed. His sister and his cousin are digesting Enid Blyton's Secret Seven adventures on their pillows and so my son decides he is going to read the Secret Seven too. He begs a copy from my high-brow book shelves and disappears upstairs.

Five minutes later he is back, moist-eyed and aggrieved. 'The others are saying I'm not really reading it,' he laments. I am annoyed. 'Don't listen to them!' I say. 'How far have you got?' 'Six pages,' he says. This is unexpected. It takes him five minutes to plough through five lines of large print in the Oxford Reading Tree.

But we do not wish to dampen a budding literary appetite. 'What's happened in the story so far?' asks his uncle kindly. My son pauses for a while, his brow wrinkled as though rehearsing a tricky synopsis. 'Well,' he concludes eventually. 'There are a lot of 'e's' in it.'

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14 comments:

  1. In this day and age it shouldn't be hard to find books that "grab" our boys. But in my experience it has been like climbing a glass mountain covered in butter!
    I know other mums who have had the same experience. My boys tended to go for non fiction and I counted myself blessed that they were reading anything.... ranging from a Dorling Kindersley illustrated book of "farm machinery" to The SAS Survival guide.
    I'm sure your boy will find his own niche The ones I feel sorry for are those brought up in households where there is no exposure to the written word.

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    1. Buttered glass mountain! That's exactly what it's like!

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  2. What is it with boys and reading? I don't get why they are so reluctant. He will get there probably as soon as he discovers the joys of comics or computers.

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    1. Computers are his passion, actually, althouggh even the allure of the screen hasn't helped him decode the messages that pop up on it. Mind you I'm illiterate when it comes to those too!

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  3. Boys are far more reluctant to read than girls. With my youngest I found out what really interested him and because we'd always spent Saturdays baking together it was cooking so we started by reading recipes that he could then cook. I'm pleased to say that it worked well and he is now a chef.

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    1. What a lovely idea. Not sure I'd have the patience while he inched through the text, though...

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  4. Ah he sounds very sweet. Tell him to ditch The Secret Seven. It's all about Tom's Midnight Garden...

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    1. Well, of course it is and I have that best of all books poised. But realise it's a bit too advanced for an unformed mind am waiting another couple of years.

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  5. My youngest boy will be 7 in a few days and I am finding him very similar. Can't compare him with my oldest boy (severe dyslexia) or my three girls who LOVE reading - he can do it, but often makes the most ridiculous guesses at words even though he knows all the rules for breaking down and sounding out words. However, he can read almost anything to do with Pokemon and doesn't seem to be struggling at school so I have decided he will get there in his own time. It is quite frustrating though.

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    1. That's a comfort. I'm sure when they're 32 they'll be able to piece a basic sentence together so we must just keep patience!

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  6. Both my boys dislike reading, to my chagrin. No such leading by example luck in my house unfortunately. I am usually glued either to a book or now to my Kindle, there are books all over the house including in their bedrooms, I read to them, we read poetry together, sang songs, the whole nine yards. Do they like reading? Do they buggery.

    My eldest, 15, even told me last week that he really enjoyed reading 'Germinal' by Zola, but that I shouldn't get the idea that he now likes reading. The grinding of my teeth could be heard from afar.

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    1. Germinal? That's pretty impressive reading! I wonder if it's because he deems it's uncool to admit to liking reading even if, despite himself, he enjoys individual books. My son loves being read to - begs for books eve. Idleness, I think, is at the root of it.

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    2. He had to read it for school and was surprised to find he liked it. Then he had to choose another Zola and picked L'Assommoir which is ever more miserable apparently.

      I think you're right about idleness. Reading takes a bit of effort, it's not an instant fix of entertainment.

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  7. Lovely post :-)
    My guys have audiobooks at night. Not an e to read amongst them, but the most perfect exercise in making great syntax, context and grammar second nature effortlessly. My son is 9. He does read these days by choice: but for a long time he didn't, and I didn't push him, because I thought he'd hate reading and see it as a chore if I did.

    So the majority of his literary education comes from listening to The 39 Steps, or Jeeves and Wooster, or even The Diary Of A Nobody.

    It makes for unconventional but polished writing :-)

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