My son has just completed a reading challenge at the local library. I'm very proud of him because he is dyslexic and hasn't had an easy time at school (in fact he's had an awful time) and an achievement like this will help to boast his self-esteem. I was particularly pleased to see that he'd been awarded a certificate:
'Team Read'. Right on, kids. Books are cool!
I found the illustration quite amusing. It's as if the artist was so keen to represent minorities that he forgot to include anyone from the majority. Where are the fat white kids with shoddy Primark clothes and Elizabeth Duke bling?
But although the certificate may be a little cringeworthy, it's great that so much is being done to encourage children to read. Most children I know have met at least one author at their school and there seems to be much more of an emphasis on reading and talking about books than there was when I was being beaten and flogged by sadists and perverts.
I probably have a distorted view of things. As a bookseller I only met the children who were interested in reading; not the shell-suited offspring of crack addicts and recidivists. However I was heartened by the sheer number of children who visited the shop. For example, when I worked in Crawley (a solidly working-class new town) I organised a Jacqueline Wilson signing and was amazed to see the town centre bought to a virtual standstill, with a queue that was a quarter of a mile long. I will miss that side of bookselling.
However, I am enjoying watching my son gradually gain the confidence to start reading books on his own. It was quite a struggle getting him to take the plunge, but my wife won him over with some brilliant books by Shoo Rayner which were perfect for reluctant readers. He has now moved on to Horrid Henry and I hope that the Secret Seven will follow shortly. I'm not going to bother with any worthy books for a year or two.
Who would have predicted that in 2008, books would still be central to the lives of so many children.