I Love the Smell of Paper in the morning, it smells of victory…or history or science fiction or… I Love Books

“People who don’t read get what they deserve.” John Lydon

“It’s bloody ridiculous. How can a school get away with not having a library.” Russell Brand

They may not seem to get on, but Lydon and Brand agree, it is good to read.

“I think I have worked out why the big bang happened”, said the six year old.

I am delighted when I look across a children’s party and see that my son, having had his fill of cake and bouncy castle, is sat under a chair, reading a book. He has devoured most of the Horrible Histories and talks of beheadings, disembowelings and obese monarchs leaking from their cracking coffins with some regularity.

The only book he has brought back from school that I have blanched at when asked to read it at bedtime was the Children’s Bible. This was not for “militant atheist” reasons, it was merely that the adultery, dead babies and cruel slaughter went beyond the Dahl gauge of the grotesque. My own The Children’s Bible In Colour of childhood seemed to be less abrupt and more eloquent. Fortunately, I still have a copy, and I think I will swap it with the Bibles for Children’s edition. Don’t worry, it’s still brutal, the images of Absalom hanging by his hair from a tree, and Abimelech with a millstone landing on his head are almost as vivid in my memory as anything from Struwelpeter. I may get a copy of My First Holy Qur’an for Little Children, if not for my son, it will save me a lot of reading time.
When he is a little older, he can enjoy Robert Crumb’s interpretation of the Book of Genesis.

Currently, he has more questions on many worlds interpretation than Jesus or the prophets, but it’s all swings and roundabouts and scooter injuries at this age. The seeds of scepticism and critical thinking haven’t sprouted into a plant whose vines will strangle all myths and apocryphal tales at this age. Today, in the journey to be critical with sources, we decided that the facts on the web concerning giraffes and swallowing time, from mouth to stomach, were a bit all over the place, and we better a write another, more trustworthy giraffe fact onto the homework page. Only minor erasing was required.

When he asks scientific questions, or offers up theories, I enjoy the mental taxation of seeing what I am capable of answering to his satisfaction, and discovering what I don’t understand well enough to describe succinctly.

I liked his description of the big bang happening because “there was just too much stuff packed together so it had to burst open”.

How exciting it is, to sit and muse on all the other potential “hims” their might be in all the other possible worlds – dragon winged or elephant headed, changing numbers of digits, ears of all shapes…

Sitting on the train to Enfield Town, we thought of what would happen if his friends went off traveling at the speed of light, and of the robots on Mars.

This is the brilliance of books, and the sadness when I hear of houses with none in and parents who no longer read. If children don’t see reading about the house, then it is in danger of becoming eccentric behaviour, the hobby of unusual.

The internet is packed with things, even if its giraffe information is a bit of a mess, but it is books more than anything else which seem to really engage and massage the mind. There is something about the engagement that happens between mind and paper when sitting under a chair with cake in your hair, and socks loose from jumping…

See the children engrossed in the corner of a public library before you declare them archaic and worthy of extinction. How many worlds for many interpretations are shelved and ready to be opened..?

I am off to USA with Professor Brian Cox for a tour

I am off to Australia to tour on my own

and I am still taking myself around the occasional UK date too, from Edinburgh via Bishops Stortford to Salford (and plenty of Christmas shows in London too)

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6 Responses to I Love the Smell of Paper in the morning, it smells of victory…or history or science fiction or… I Love Books

  1. A smile broke across my face at the similar experiences I have with reading to and being questioned by my 6 year old son. Books are good, books are tactile, books are the catalyst.
    He is currently spinning the wheel on Shipwreck Explorers to discover sunken Amphora’s, Lyres and Swoards (I think CBeebies may have gifted him some degree of Received Pronunciation to balance against my Manc-ness).
    We often supplement the limits of texts and my poor knowledge of The Legend of the Golden Fleece by “asking the internet” as he orders Google to “show me a picture of the fleece!”. Search engines be damned though when he stumps me with “Daddy, do moths play football?” after rescuing a dazed and confused specimen in the daytime which was surely hoping for a longer lie in!

  2. Emma says:

    My nephews (3 & 6) love books. They are both incredibly verbal boys, with large vocabularies, in part I feel because we read to them so much and engage them in conversations. Sadly my eldest nephew’s school library is a total shambles with no one taking care of it properly. I know state schools can only do so much but it saddens me that their libraries are not a priority. I guess he’s lucky that they have one at all. Thankfully, we have two great public libraries that are close by, which my sister takes them to all the time. My mother is also a children’s librarian and brings them home books all the time. We are a fortunate family. It’s such a shame that so many people don’t have the same access to and love of books that we have.

  3. Mike Morris says:

    The thing I find odd is that the denigrating of books is an entirely adult preoccupation, and it just drives children away from a medium they really like. What strikes me is that the percentage of children and teenagers who love reading is much higher than with adults. To be vulgar for a moment, the numbers bear this out too: almost all the big-selling successes in fiction of the last couple of decades have been for children or teens.

    I often hear people saying “kids don’t read any more and they play video games” (as if the two are mutually exclusive somehow) but from what I can see, it’s adults who don’t read anywhere near as much as they used to, adults who don’t even try and set up an environment where reading is valued, and adults (or governments, if you like, but there aren’t many nine year-olds in government) who can’t be arsed funding school libraries.

    Ditto with e-readers – purely anecdotal, but they don’t seem to interest the young people I know at all. They like the physical object, paper and all. They don’t refer disdainfully to “dead tree publishing.”

    When I were a lad (and it were all fields round ‘ere) I kept hearing how young people don’t read any more. That refrain is new. It strikes me that what’s different is that this is now tacitly encouraged, that those in authority bemoan a lack of reading while not making any attempt to place value on it.

  4. Pingback: Libraries and Reading Round Up | Alan Gibbons' Diary

  5. Pingback: Library News Round-up: 8 December 2014 | The Library Campaign

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