Trying to be a good parent

Sometimes it’s hard being a parent or perhaps it’s part of my own fault of being over critical of everything that I do but part of parenting for me seems to be almost an overbearing desire to do the best that I can for my kids (I’d assume that really should be the case for ever parent but it obviously isn’t sadly) and in some way make up for the things that I missed out on in my own childhood.

One area I’ve always been particularly worried about is reading and within that, the reading of fiction. I’ll admit I’m not a big book reader in the literature department. I’ve probably never read any of the ‘classics’ and with only a few exceptions, fiction bores me stupid at the best of times. That doesn’t mean I’m uneducated or culturally illiterate, merely I’m not much interested in fiction that appear in written form.

When I was at school and the other children were reading about kids adventures and; well, actually I don’t know as I never read any of that stuff but the covers always seemed to have pictures of children doing various activities, while I had my nose firmly rooted into the non-fiction section reading up on astronomy, planets, military aircraft and the distribution and proliferation of nuclear weapon.

Note: I have no idea why my primary school had a book about the distribution of nuclear weapons in their library but they did, and I was probably the only kid there who ever read it.

About as close to fiction as I got was a slight obsession with reading one book that was very large, about A3 size that had pictures of fantasy space ships in it with various technical schematic information about payloads, weight, engine thrust and weapons (my favourite was the one that looked like a robot that had lasers where a mouth would be and ripped planets up). I truly wish I could remember the name, because it was ace and I’d love to get hold of it. Suggestions are very welcome as to what this book might be on such a skimpy description.

At home we didn’t have a great deal of story books when I look back. As far as fiction went, it was Amelia Jane Again and that was about it. Not that there weren’t books in the house but they were distinctly non-fiction stuff, although I doubt reading the Haynes Manual for a Morris Mini-Minor added a great deal to my literary acumen. (Although I could change the bulbs and plugs on one at a very early age).

This leads me to being a parent and doing the whole reading thing with, particularly my son. He seems to show great talent for technical, mathematical and logical problem solving which mimics how I was at a young age. He’s started being creative with ‘little’ Lego which is great too; but he doesn’t show much interest in reading and letters.

I can’t complain really because I never showed much interest in reading at his age, only later coming to it when I realised that reading equalled the ability to amass large amounts of completely pointless information that may at best come in handy for a pub quiz 20 or so odd years later.

However that led me to realise that like my parents house, there wasn’t really a great deal of fiction lying around our house. Plenty of textbooks if he’s up for a reading on political theory and international history but apart from some of Mrs Penguin’s books about elves (of which a fair number are in German) there’s not much for him to go at.

So the other day I decided it was about time to try and get him into a bit of reading and off I toddled to get some of the ‘children classics’ or at least I think they are anyway as I never read any of them when I were a lad.

So it was Meg and Mog, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Where The Wild Things Are. I can’t say I know really what books to get him next although I’m open to suggestions but when it comes out I intend to get him Morris the Mankiest Monster as he loves stuff about monsters.

So that’s a small little personal post which I don’t do very often but is nice from time to time. One Penguin’s attempt to be a good dad and hopefully inspire his son into a bit of fiction reading – although I think I’m far past ever taking up an interest myself.

3 thoughts on “Trying to be a good parent

  1. It doesn’t matter what they read – so long as they read something. it can be anything: comics, cornflakes packets, non fiction, poetry or fiction.

    As they develop their own tastes, they pick up the kinds of books they like (it might be mechanical instructions, but it’s still reading and deciphering information). Once you know what they are into, get down to the library and feed the fad – because they always move onto something else in a couple of months – before the next interest comes along.

    My daughter isn’t too keen on reading even now (she’s 10), while my son is developing a rather disturbing taste for sci fi and fantasy (he’s 7).

    I let them get on with it.

    We always worry, but there is no need. We can’t all love everything. I couldn’t do maths, so my interest naturally gravitated to reading (I had to do something).

    I review children’s books, so know a little bit about authors etc. Please feel free to email me some details about your son (age, interests etc) and I will see if I can think of some authors I would recommend.

  2. How old is he? The three you’ve mentioned are all great, real favourites with our boys (our youngest, aged 2, is insistently demanding Meg & Mog stories every night at the moment).

    Other books which your son may enjoy if he likes those include:

    - anything by Donaldson & Scheffler (esp. the Gruffalo, given his love of monsters);

    - Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs;

    - Dr Seuss.

    Charlie & Lola are also wonderful, especially those actually written by Lauren Child. (For slightly older children, the Clarice Bean picture books are even better. There are then longer, text-based Clarice Bean stories for tweenagers.)

    Judith Kerr’s Mog books are excellent, too. Mog and the Baby, Mog and the V-E-T and Mog’s Bad Thing being three particular favourites (of mine – never mind what the children think!).

    This is something of a golden age for children’s picture books, so you should have plenty to work on…

  3. Hi Penguin, I have just come across your site once more and this caught my eye.

    I have no idea how old your son is, but I cannot stress just how important reading is, no matter what the age from reading bedtime stories before a child can read for themselves, to buying books for them-carefully chosen and ones they can preferably laugh at or with the contents in the story or of course, introducing them into the children’s library.

    I was brought up on Just William, Grimm’s Fairy Stories and the like and I think I read all of them.

    I now get through many thousands of pages researching because I speed read, but the draw back of that is, that if I write something that has a mistake or I have left a word out, my eyes automatically ‘correct’ the sentence. My brother was an excellent “proof” reader, something I could never have done.

    Strewth! I can even remember one quote from one ‘Just William’. When William bumped into one rather large important looking gentleman, the man said, “Look where you are going young man. Don’t you know who I am? “No” said William, “And I bet you don’t know who I am either?”

    Playing a musical instrument is also another way of teaching children another way of reading. Just enjoy the company of your children because they do have a way of growing up all too fast.

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