For a nine-year old, Alexander, is a true bookworm. He reads everywhere. In the bath, in the car, in the classroom, at the table and, if he can get away with it, at night, under his duvet with a torch. He reads in English, French and Dutch, the language of the book doesn’t seem to matter although his preferred language is English he told me when I started writing this blogpost.
At least twice to my knowledge, he has injured himself walking along the pavement while reading. “I’m OK, Mummy,” he told me brightly, the first time he did it, stepping back from a lamp-post in surprise.
When he reads in restaurants, for example, waiters tell me how rare it is to see a child immersed in a book, instead of glued to a phone. In small shops, he often quietly tucks himself away in a corner to read – and then, when I call him to leave the shop with me, the assistants will intervene and beg me not to disturb him further. “Look at him, he’s reading,” they’ll whisper to me, in a tone of wonder.
At first, I found this quite strange. Alexander’s behaviour seems entirely normal to me – perhaps because I was a bookworm myself, as a child in the 1980s. I, too, had a torch and knew how to use it and I remember having a few lamp-post encounters of my own. Like Alexander, I could open a book and shut out everything that was happening around me. It was effortless and magical, and I think not that unusual at the time.
But things are different now I guess. When Alexander reads in public, it often attracts attention. Last summer, an elderly lady approached us in a park because she’d noticed Alexander sitting reading for nearly half an hour. “It’s just not something you see nowadays,” she said, beaming with happiness. “I didn’t think children read like that any more.”
We started reading to Alexander when he was very young and we used to listen to audio- books on long car journeys. We lived in Paris at that time and the drive to my family in Holland would approximately take 5 hours. Enough for a couple of books. By the time Alexander started learning to read at school, he had a wide vocabulary and a strong understanding of plot. That made the process easier. When he struggled, his teacher told him that being able to read was like having a magic key that could open the door to new worlds. I think he understood what she meant.
I tried to ensure that he had some downtime each day, time that wasn’t filled to the brim with after-school activities. Then I bought The Enchanted Wood and waited for the inevitable: “I’m bored, Mummy.” When it came, I handed over the book, hoping the familiarity of the text would make reading a chapter book on his own less scary.
It was like lighting a match. Aged six he plunged headfirst into silent reading. His hunger for Blyton in particular knew no bounds. Luckily for him, the charity shops we full of them as books were hard to get by in Amman, Jordan, where we lived at that time, or the prices were extortionate.
We started taking books with us everywhere and became frequent visitors to the one bookshop in Amman. Me and my husband got used to spending hours there, allowing him to pick and choose. He discovered collections like Horrid Henry and the Rainbow Fairies series that way and got hooked on them, too. He read every book by Roald Dahl twice, then devoured everything by his heirs David Walliams and Andy Stanton. Funny authors make him laugh out loud: he received Diary of a Wimpy Kid for his seventh birthday, and hasn’t stopped reading and re-reading the series since. (He was even reading one earlier today!)
Back in 2018 we visited Pretoria and stayed with friends, on that trip we went to the Grove Mall and Alexander found Bargain Books.
When we finally moved to Pretoria, in August 2019, one of the first questions Alexander asked was “Mummy can you take me to that bookshop?” and that’s how we ended up back at this wonderful book store again.
It’s our go to bookstore in Pretoria. Bargain Books offers a large selection of books at affordable prices and with something suited to the whole family. A bookstore that we visit at least once a week, post lockdown of course. So when Bargain Books approached Alexander if he wanted to come to the store to pick a couple of books, he didn’t have to think twice.
Stay tuned for more Bargain Books love once the lockdown is over as we have some great things planned in combination with The Grove.
He reads for pleasure because he loves books – and I suspect always will. After all, he is a bookworm.
Is your child a bookworm as well? What’s he / she currently reading?