My two-year-old daughter picked up Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro in the library recently and started flicking through it.
“This is a good book!” she said.
I know my toddler doesn’t actually understand Booker Prize shortlisted dystopian science fiction. Still, I felt proud in that stupid way that parents often do, because it seemed like a clever thing to do. And I desperately want her to be clever. But more importantly than that, I want her to be a reader.
I loved reading so much as a child that I went to the library each week, took out as many books as I could carry, then hid them under my bed so my friends wouldn’t know how uncool I was. Then I did an English undergraduate degree, because it meant I got to read lots of stuff for four years. Then I did a publishing master’s degree, because I dreamed of working as a book editor. Then I started working in digital marketing, because it turns out there’s a lot more demand for someone who can edit a web page than a novel. I may be a digital nerd now, but I never lost my love for books.
I want my daughter to love reading that much. She already has her own bookshelf and has taken over several shelves on one of our bookshelves, which is a good start, apparently. Studies show that having books in the home is as important to academic achievement as how educated parents are.
I’m not that worried about academic achievement at this stage – I mean, she’s two – but I do like the fact that she can grab herself a book whenever she wants. “MUMMY READ IT!” is almost as common around here as “MUMMY DO IT!” Not quite but…almost.
She’s already started to narrate her playtime like it was a novel.
[Picks up Incredible Hulk toy] I am Hulk, he said.
[Picks up robot toy] I am Robot, he thought.
[Shakes Incredible Hulk] I am jumping, he said.
[Shakes Robot] I’m going to the shop to buy Weetabix, he said.
It’s a pretty shit novel, but I can’t help but wonder if one day, when her grasp on the finer points of plotting is a bit more refined, she’ll be a writer too. Will she understand the thrill of a crafting the perfect sentence or get enraged by people’s inability to use apostrophes?
Will she start a blog too, because she can’t imagine doing anything else in her spare time but writing? Will there even be blogs by the time she’s old enough to start one, or will the internet be nothing but porn and those Tasty videos? Will people even read anymore?
I’m not optimistic about the future of literature and journalism in general, but when it comes to my kid, I’m still hopeful that she’ll be able to appreciate good writing when she sees it. And she damn well be able to punctuate properly.