Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Reasons to be cheerful

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.


The Poet Laura-eate said...

Aaawww - a heartwarming story. Though since many schools have budgets for visiting educational entertainments, workshops & theatre groups etc, why not become a freelance consultant doing what you used to do for bookshops and spreading your enthusiasm to the children.

Or just for a while part-time while you re-train the rest of the time.

Steerforth said...

I like the idea of freelance anything. It sounds so much better than unemployed.

Yes, I would like to do something to get children excited about reading. It's not entirely altruistic. I also want to reduce the likelihood of being mugged in old age, and I figure that Michael Morpurgo fans are less likely to attack me than devotees of violent computer games.

Anonymous said...

Ever visited Dillons in Watford whilst in Crawley?

Steerforth said...

I've only been to Watford once, and that was earlier this year to see a play. I liked the theatre, but can't say I'll be rushing back to Watford.

Did you know someone at Crawley? I should add that I worked at Ottakar's, not the Evil Empire.

Anonymous said...

Ha, my friend Catherine from Crawley worked at Dillons with me, not sure what made Waterstones so evil (bar central purchasing?).
I've done a trio of bookshop work, Dillons, Books etc and a little independent. Books etc by far most successful and enjoyable to work in, Dillons most mad, and independent run by V Controlling Owner who was anxious if I moved a book let alone order one.
Was quite liking idea of going back to bookselling one day - do adore alphabetising sections, and tidying up.

Steerforth said...

It isn't just the central buying that's wrong with Waterstone's, it's the whole culture of the company: the over-regulation, the macho, bullying attitude of some people in middle management, the lack of faith in the staff (routine bag searches) and attitude of fear.

It's probably won't seem that bad if you join the company and have never experienced a better working environment. Also, long-term Waterstone's people tell me that it used to be even worse a few years ago.

All I can do is reiterate the fact that 70% of Ottakar's managers have left Waterstone's during the last two years, which says it all really.