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The Perfect Family Part XI - Kids and books

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I wrote a while back about kids and their attitudes towards technology. Today I want to explore books and how my children experience their wonder. It's perhaps not as straightforward as you may think. I've made some observations which I think are worth sharing (please feel free to disagree and go and pour yourself a glass of whiskey instead):

1. Kids LOVE to hold the books they're reading.  

At first glance, this may not seem unusual, seeing as they are the readers, but keep at the forefront of your mind that an adult is usually doing the actual reading while the child is sat on their lap, which in case you hadn't noticed, is much lower than eye level. As angles and eyes work, it's virtually impossible to read the words on a page when the book is being angled virtually at your crotch. Yup, good luck reading that! Fortunately for my kids, I have a very flexible spine as well as blind determination and can somehow make it work out. 

2. They will not stick to a single book in one sitting.

Oh gosh, just when I think I've placed all the books back on their shelf in nothing resembling actual order and I've sat down with my little treasures to read their favourite story, they catch a glimpse of a cast-away book peeking out from beneath the giant teddy bear pile. This leads to continuous glances over and eventually ends up as cries to stop reading and pick up that other one which they can't quite make out because it must SURELY be way more interesting if we don't know what it is.


3. They love to read a good story over and over and ooooooover again.

43 times. That's how many times I estimate I've read The Jungle Book to my eldest. By all counts, that's probably not all that much compared to other families who probably read more than we do, but it is enough to ensure that Mowgli and Baloo's dance poses are permanently etched in my wavering and tired mind. 40 years from now, test me, and I'll cut off my frontal lobe if I can't recite the entire bloody thing to you. From an evolutionary standpoint, repetition is essential to progression as it ensures learning takes place, but equally, I'm confused as to why fewer parents have fled from their children in sheer frustration.

4. Real life suddenly BECOMES the book

Have you ever read the story about a rabbit lost in the woods, only to find out moments later that you, apparently, are the rabbit and that you must cry and call for help? This is my favourite part of reading books to my kids. They explore the story in so much depth in real life and it can be such a fun experience to run around putting on ridiculous voices, wearing stupid hats and getting hugs and kisses out of the cute little monsters by pretending to be hurt or in pain. But I dread to think what this play would look like if it continues into their teenage years and The Hunger Games becomes a family favourite...

5. They love to replace characters with real people  

Selma's favourite version of the Jungle Book is actually the one where Bagheera's name is José, Baloo is named after her mother (not the most flattering of choices!) and the rest of the characters are played by varying family members. Naturally, the lead role is reserved for none other than herself. Ego ego ego. I try not to read too much into her choices of alternative actors for the characters, but can't help but laugh at the fact that her favourite person on Earth (auntie Johanna) has been relegated to playing the ape King Louie. Love and closeness certainly do not guarantee flattery.

6. Get a word wrong and prepare to be reprimanded.

"No pappa! You're supposed to say skirt, not clothes!" Well, excuse me if I thought I could recite it without looking and drifted off into my own thoughts while remaining on reading auto-pilot because it's the 5th time in a row I have read the same flipping thing! Don't... get... words... wrong. It's a recipe for a swift telling off and in extreme cases, a full-blown fit of rage.

7. Carry on from where we left off!? NO WAY! 

Reading stories at bedtime is a wonderful way to wind down at end of the day on a relaxing and purposeful note. Cosying up together on a comfy bed and exploring both the story and the illustrations together is something I treasure. But there comes a point when reading on to the end of the book would just take too long, so the bookmark slips its way into the appropriate spot and the books goes to sleep beside the warm little monkey that has so enjoyed reading it. "We can continue the book tomorrow darling, sleep tight". Well this "continue the book tomorrow business" simply does not happen. "I WANNA START OVER PAPAAAAAA!" she says the following night, beating on her chest like a silverback marking its territory. This can go on for as many nights as you can wag your finger at until I finally give in and just read on until the end anyway. I enjoy the illusion of possessing control over my kids, but moments like this pop the bubble and expose me to the truth for a brief and painful moment in time.

   Well that wraps it up. I'm gonna go and try and squeeze in 5 minutes of my own reading time now. Hopefully I won't have any tiny humans trying to yank the pages out of my hands or attempt to climb me like a jungle gym. What would you like to share about kids and books that I've missed out? Write a comment below to share your experiences with us.