Guest post: Do bookworms beget little bookworms?

22:55, Feb 18 2014

My Mum made me satay for my birthday.  While this is, a) of no interest to you, and b) nothing to do with the Bliss of Reading, I am coming to a point.  Mum's satay is special.  She hardly ever makes it.  It's time consuming, full of love and made from scratch, with all the extras.  I have never learned how to make it.  Why should I? I'll never make it as well as Mum does.

My best friend reads to her children (three, five and seven) and has done so devotedly since the day her first was born.  They love it.  All kinds of books.  Old favourites, chapter books, classics, the works.  But the oldest in particular, hates reading.  Like, really hates reading.  My friend, an insatiable reader, is beside herself at the prospect of her kids not sharing a love of reading.  She's frantically fighting a battle between trying to change this before it's too late, and giving it up and getting to grips with the awful notion that Bookworms Do Not Necessarily Beget Bookworms.  It got me thinking after we had a discussion about it recently. 

Yeah, if you read to your kids, a love of reading is apparently meant to take root and flourish.  But what if you do it so well they've no motivation to learn to do it themselves?  Like Mum's satay?  (There it is.)  Is there a wibbly, indistinct, moveable line between establishing a love of books and inadvertently creating a storytelling comfort zone with your voice? 

It seems here is yet another example of best laid parenting plans turning around to bite you in the butt and provide another bottomless wellspring of child-rearing guilt.  Damned if you do, damned if you don't, and all that. 

I don't know what my friend's own personal apocalypse looks like to her if it turns out none of her kids take joy from the written word.  But I sure know what mine looks like.  It's a hideous vision in which my children merely dispose of my books upon my death.  Just, (gasp) give them away.  To strangers.  Or worse, chuck them in the skip along with the other outdated relics of my life.  Including the recipe for Mum's satay.

How much does having a child who loves reading matter to you?  How would you come to terms with not having any young bookworms in your family?

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* Rohani Alexander is a writer, mother-of-two and freelance creative based in Hamilton


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