Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Learning to read

There are lots of reasons why I loved my dad (and why I still miss him desperately) but perhaps one of the most important (significant, meaningful, useful....) was the way he instilled a love of books and reading into me. And how he ensured that I always remember what I have read. I borrowed the memory to use in The Wise Child.
Here's an excerpt:

Each day featured the same conversation when I would face the same questions, which I was always eager to answer. He would call me to him and lift me up onto his knee, settle me down and say: “What are you reading? Who is it by? What is it about?” I was expected to tell him the story in my own words, describe the characters and explain the plot. If it was a long book it would be told in instalments over several days. Often Dad would ask for finer details or more information and most times I could supply it. Once in a while though I was hazy on some points and tried to avoid his interrogation. Then he would suggest, kindly, that I should read the chapter again because I had missed parts of it. That way I learned to read carefully and to remember what I had read, two skills that were to prove very useful to me later. Best of all was when I had finished a book and I faced a different set of questions. “Did you enjoy it? Why?” And after that he would want to know if I thought he would enjoy it too and we would compare what we liked in books and what made us want to give up reading them. That was when I could truly talk freely to my father about the world, books, fiction, reality and everything that was important to me as a child. And he would listen.


Sandra Davies said...

This is lovely - and what a wise father. I was never encouraged to do this in any way that I could cope with - probably I saw such questioning as criticism, certainly remember doing that in later life when my Dad often brought books home from the library for me to read, but without attempting to discuss them - a 'failing' I see in myself as a parent.

Ellie said...

What a wonderful and wise father you had, and such special memories for you to look back on.

Ellie Garratt

snafu said...

After all that careful coaching and you end up reading Terry Prachett! ;)
Well OK he is good and funny and wise and very easy to read. I notice Fred Hoyle amongst your books along with ‘Five Children and It’. Someone made a movie allegedly based on that E Nesbit book and it was a real misinterpretation of her ideas.
On the subjects of books, I once worked in the West London area visiting people’s houses to fix their TVs and so could see the kind of books people owned. Twenty years later, in another job role, I went back to some of the same streets and into the same kind of houses and was shocked to find that whilst the book shelves were still there, they were filled with videos, not books.

anthonynorth said...

Such excellent memories.

Michael G-G said...

Your father was a wise man. I love the questions he used to lead you into becoming a discerning reader.

Lydia K said...

What a wonderful memory and legacy.