30 May 2016


I like to read.

And by 'like' I mean love. Like adore. I soak up books. I use books to turn my brain off, turn my brain on. I read magazines, devour news articles, read the fine print. When I was young, I worked my way through my own books, library books and the books on my parent's bookshelves.

I have preferred genres. These change. My bookshelves appear eclectic to anyone but me but I can pull a book off the shelf and tell you how old I was, where I was living and the state of my life at the time I read it.  I don't like everything I read. There is the odd book I haven't been able to finish and having to study Tess of the D'urbervilles three times in two years means that I loathe the book and it's lead character with a passion normally reserved for the truly evil.

I read incredibly fast and even at 41 still occasionally realise I've never said a word out loud when I go to use it and realise that my mouth is not familiar with the shape and texture of the word, even though I have read it a million times.  I enjoy spending time with other prolific readers and I apply the 'page 99 rule' when overwhelmed by choice in a book store. I have literally read thousands of books.

And now that I have been a parent for almost six years I can safely say that I never want to read 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar" ever again.

Obviously, we read to our daughters. We have since they were born. They love listening to stories. They love telling them. They love re-enacting them when they play together. And this year, our eldest daughter is learning to read for herself.

And I am becoming increasingly aware how many words there are in the world to read that we never notice.  Until accompanied by somebody that has just learned how to read.

Going out in the world with somebody that has just cracked the great mystery of reading requires doubling the time it takes to go anywhere so we have time to sound out every single word we see.

Every. Single. Word.

We read the words on street signs and stickers on the backs of cars.

We stop to read graffiti.

We read shop names, clothing labels, the names of cereals in the supermarket.

We read magazine covers, no junk mail signs on letterboxes.

We read the shopping list aloud.

We read the spines of the books in the lounge room.

The covers of DVDs.

We read the brands on prams as we pass people by and every single word written on t-shirts.

We read ALL the signs on buses, trains and every single construction site around us.

We read words on envelopes, sales receipts, brochures.

We read name labels, safety instructions, the toy catalogue.

We read business cards, book marks, the words on the remote.

We read everything.

Even the stop sign. Which I obviously see without reading. But now we stop to read it. Every single time.

It turns out that there are words everywhere that I have been paying absolutely no mind to as I go about my days.

I find her enthusiasm for the joy of words incredibly endearing. I love how her face lights up when she's managed to sound out a word for herself and how indignant she was when she realised that people use the number 2 to represent the word 'to'.

"It's just WRONG Mum, why do they do it when it's WRONG?"

She's going to feel the pain of their, there, they're very young I think.

We can no longer spell words out we don't want her to understand because she just writes them down and sounds them out until she cracks it. She hears every conversation you have and asks you to write down words she has heard you say so she can see what they look like.

We are obsessed with hangman and some game she made up that involves letters and lines that she always wins because none of us understand it. But all of it is for the love of words.

She reads to me at night now. Slowly and with an amusing mix of genuine ability and a dose of chutzpah we are making our way through yet another story about two girls and a dog. There are so, so, so many stories about two girls and dogs.

So just like that - she's a reader.

She's literate.

She's cracked open the mysteries of the universe.

She's found love.

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