Thursday, 24 May 2018

Heroes, Adventures, and Happy Endings

This beautiful early Summer means that we are spending all of our time outdoors. I know you are probably picturing me lying on a lounger reading a riveting book and sipping Gin whilst my two children play a harmonious game of croquet on the lawn. Yeah that's how I pictured parenting two little people but it looks like we're wrong. Most weekends and every minute after school is spent playing football with Matt. Garden football but total football. The second child occasionally joins in but is mainly left to fend for herself. Don't fret though- She is quite content pottering around eating moss, pointing at birds, and delivering the occasional throw-in. It is best she steers clear of the pitch though as it is not a friendly knock about between mother and son. It is shin padded, studded, and brutal. One on One full on football. I'm getting pretty good in goal and I have the bruises to prove it. I've come off better than the dad, though. All he had to do was throw the ball back but he managed to break his toe. He's on the bench for the foreseeable.It really isn't a game for faint hearted. Should have asked wee Dot to return it instead.

On the subject of the beautiful game I need to make a declaration. Let's get one thing clear from the whistle - there are only two members of this household who are Liverpool fans. I'm not one of them. You see, Matt and Dot are being raised as part of a blended family. We are raising them with mixed football heritage. Quite early on we decided to let Matt pick his team but it seems he chose the wrong one. However, I fully support my son’s choice to support Liverpool as long as wee Dot gives me her football soul. This does unfortunately mean that my son very publicly wears his colours. Yes long gone is his farmer style and drifting away is his desire to dress like Dave Grohl. He has new heroes to emulate now. The Liver livery is all he wants to put on. So please be aware that he does own other clothes but he will probably look the same on all future posts!
My beautiful drainpipe and a big lad who lives with me
So, once again I have found that reading was slipping down the list of his favourite things to do. How do we find literary heroes to compete with Mohamed Salah? How do we find books as exciting as scoring a goal with his left foot?

Finding books to satisfy the pair of us has long been the gist of this blog but I feel it acutely now he is six, a competent reader, and a reluctant sit downer. It makes him a difficult punter. School books are a necessity but not to be used for relaxation or entertainment purposes. His picture books are sometimes over familiar. And for a short while he preferred to read on the kindle or watch something on the tablet. Taking matters in hand I decided to make up stories to satisfy his needs. I created an elaborate tale about him joining LFC Juniors which typically culminated in the final cup match. The stuff of dreams. But, in a tiny voice, he tapped me to ask 'Do I win, Mama?' Here's the thing. We are ready for more challenging books but not necessarily for more challenging stories. He wants books that he can read himself but that may also require the adult too. He still needs to avoid scenes containing mild peril, sadness or disappointment. This boy still needs a story to give him a happy ending.  How do you bridge the gap between picture books and chapter books? Well, I'm glad I asked because we have discovered some great books to share with you. 

The first book that fulfilled our criteria was a gift from our friend Hannah. The Rabbit and Bear books published by Hodder have proven perfect reading fodder. This is mainly because, based on my experience, six year olds need to talk about poo. The first book really provides a great space to speak of such things. We even learnt new poo facts. The book is disgusting, it is factual, and it is brilliant. There is a lot of non-poo content too if you're that way inclined. The books follow the relationships and adventures of the two main animal characters in the woods. Rabbit is an imperfect character that gets things wrong and has tantrums but is guided and accepted by caring Bear. We learn gentle lessons about friendship and nature but it isn't cute or twee. They are pitched at the just the right level for my boy. The books have a great feel to them both emotionally and aesthetically. The illustrations are attractive and because of the books' smaller size but larger text amounts they feel very different from picture books. They are books that Matt could read himself but I enjoy them too so we read them together. We are hoping that there will be many more of these books to come.  

The next book I need to preach about appeared to me in the library and I have felt enlightened ever since. Allow me to share the revelation. It all began when I took Dot to the library for enrichment purposes (so that she could rearrange and lick a different range of books than we have at home.)
Of course she is reading one we already have at home

I was trying to find where to put back a book that Dot had sunk her teeth into (you decide if this is literal or not) when my eyes were attracted to a lovely black and yellow book. I did not know it then but I had chanced upon a beeaut of a book. For Bee Boy ticks all of the boxes. The illustrations, font, and layout are really inviting. But above all it delivers the hero Matt was seeking. Someone who has fears but is clever, kind and brave. This story of a boy who can enter his bee hive is both entertaining and educational story. There is some peril and some sad situations but they are handled well and because of the  tone of the book it was easily coped with. We talked about the characters, the storyline, and the nature facts frequently whilst reading it. I really could not wait until bedtime to read more. We have also carried this story in our heads for a while since finishing it such is its reach. In fact I said to Matt 'I don't think I have enjoyed reading a book as much as this for quite a while.' He said 'I have never enjoyed one as much as this. Can we buy our own copy?' Do you need anymore convincing than this? We are eagerly awaiting the sequel. Do join us and don't bee left out.

That trip to the library was also a huge success for we found another important book. Whilst we we were sitting on the tiny tiny chairs I spotted something that made me exclaim ‘ohmyword’ outloud. Does this make me middle class? I should probably declare that I was wearing boat shoes. From M&S. I think I’m there. Anyway, stop distracting me. There sitting on the shelf was a book I didn’t know even existed. Its publication in 2017 had totally passed me by. For here, in my hands, was a special edition of You Choose. This is beyond exciting. You may remember our close relationship to the imagine book from this blog post. Oh thank you Pippa and Nick. For the book and for helping me out. You see at least once a week I try to do a small treasure hunt for Matt. It gets him reading, distracts him from the football, and most of all it serves to remind him that I was thinking about him whilst he was at school. He loves them. However on that particular day I had little treasure inspiration. And then I had ample. A book treasure hunt with this You Choose In Space potentially providing the perfect treasure prize. Yay.

So I left a trail of clues and hid five library books around the house...

I love bottom related clues. This is what being six is all about.
(There is a distinct lack of football kit here because he has his school gardening clothes on.)

I was so excited but then last minutes nerves began to set in in case a bookish treasure hunt would be disappointing compared to hunts where Lego blind bags or football socks were the prizes. I need not have worried.  

Super excited blurry boy
Matt was beyond happy to discover this book as the ultimate treasure. I was thrilled that I had got it right. We can still agree on what is fun.  'I can't wait to read this at bedtime', he squealed.

So we did.

This book does not disappoint. We loved our voyage of discovery. The format was so familiar and it was great to recognise some of the characters. Matt also liked the new characters who guide you through the book. This was precisely the adventure he had been seeking. This book, like the others, really does spark conversation and triggers the imagination. The book gave us the chance to talk, dream, and coexist in a space far away from school, football, and other distractions. It dawned on me that Matt could read this book by himself quite easily but he stills considers the reading of such a book as a joint venture. That is just perfect as far as I'm concerned.

Maybe this is what being six is all about. Yes you can read on your own. But no you don't have to. Playing football is about developing abilities and reading is an essential skill but this is not why we do either of them together. We do it to connect, to share our time, and to create space to reinforce our relationship. To just be together. The Dad may have introduced YNWA into Matt's life but I'm giving him You'll Never Read Alone. Until he wants to. And maybe not for a while then.

So, good luck in the final, LFC. Go write yourselves into history and give my son the happy ending he is seeking. And if you can do it without going to penalties I would be really grateful as he doesn't cope well with late nights. Also Come on Villa and all the best to Shrewsbury Town. It's over to you and give us our happily ever afters.

1 comment:

  1. You are brilliant Emma. What a great read. You children are so lucky to be yours. Carol F AKA Debs