When Boy Lacer was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder at 3, one of the things that I thought was the saddest was I thought that he would consequently probably always struggle with reading, something that I personally had always gained great pleasure from. So it is with great joy that it turned out to be absolutely not the case, in fact *whisper* he is almost certainly a better reader than Girl Lacer was at his age.
As with every school, they have book levels and when Girl Lacer was in year 1 and for a large part of year 2 to, it was a bit of an effort to get her to progress from level to level, whereas Boy Lacer, all you have to do is blink and he’s gone up another level. He recently progressed to a book level which is now only two levels below the mythical ‘free reader’ level (where you get let loose in the library). So when Boy Lacer announced recently that he’d made this leap up another book level and there was all the subsequent metaphorical high fiving and “Who’s a clever boying”, Girl Lacer piped up “Is he going to get a book? Because you bought me a book every time I went up a level.” Actually, I had forgotten about that, the book buying for Girl Lacer every time she went up a level was a form of bribery to get her to work on her reading and later, especially, on her fluency (as not only do you have to be able to read the book to move up, you have to be able to comprehend it and to read it fluently and she had been struggling a bit with the fluency bit for a while). So, in short, I hadn’t been buying Boy Lacer a book every time he went up a level because the bribery hadn’t been necessary (not that I don’t buy both of them books, one of the great pleasures of mummyhood is buying my kids books).
But, as it happens, one day this week, when me and Boy Lacer had been walking home from school (Girl Lacer still at school in an after school club), Boy Lacer, was, as usual, filling me in with what he’d been doing that day and the particular highlight of that particular day was that his class teacher had been reading them a book called The Magic Faraway tree, which he seemed to really like (he filled me in with great detail on the plot so far). And I was ecstatic, because you know what? The Magic Faraway Tree had been one of my favourite books at that age and it had been a series I had tried to tempt Girl Lacer with, but she hadn’t been remotely interested, so to find out that Boy Lacer liked it, I was a bit pleased. So I had told him anyway that next time I went shopping I would buy him a copy and we could read it at home (at bedtime now, neither kid really opts for picture books any more – although their bedroom still has mountains of them – we did have a sort out a few weeks ago, when I went through each picture book and asked them if they wanted to keep it, about 90% of the books stayed, a lot due to sentimentality from both of them I think, but nothing wrong with that but if you hear of a book avalanche in Kingston, you’ll know why). Boy Lacer’s favourite bedtime books are currently Roald Dahl, Horrid Henry and The Trouble With . . . series, which we read to him, as he’s not quite ready for officially reading chapter books himself but I do know that he sometimes tries to read chapter books himself during quiet time before lights out. (For anyone interested in how we gave Girl Lacer a boost in her reading, I have two things 1) Roald Dahl (I defy any kid not to like his stuff, so a big thank you to her year 2 class teacher Mrs. S for introducing it to her) and 2) turning a blind eye to any unofficial reading at night when they shouldn’t be, as I think it’s at that point when they’re reading because they want to read, not because they have to, do they really start to explore and find pleasure in books). So in the end Boy Lacer did get a book for ‘moving up a level’ but *sssh* I was going to buy it for him anyway
But it seems I can’t go into a bookshop and buy just one book, eek no, that’s impossible and I got very attracted to a big display of Usborne Young Reading Books. They seem to have had a bit of a makeover / have added new titles to their collection and I was particularly attracted to the fact that they’ve adapted some particularly cool adult books for kids, as I do think a lot of kids books (I’m not including YA here) are a bit tame (particularly ‘girls’ books *shudder*) and although I’m not trying to rush my kids into growing up, far from it, I do think they need books with an age appropriate level of danger / naughtiness / excitement, that some kids books are just missing. Which is why I think it feels sometimes that Roald Dahl is all that my kids read because his stuff has definitely got the requisite level of all three (as does JK Rowling, Girl Lacer’s other favourite). I sometimes wonder would books like George’s Marvellous Medicine, for example, be published in today’s too safe world if it were not already a classic? And remember, books are of course competing with far more than they used to when I was a kid sized bookworm, when you have the excitement of computer games, books have to be exciting to (and whilst I’m on the subject, does anyone know of any sci-fi-ish type books for kids? Again, I’m not talking YA. As far as I can see there is none and Boy Lacer would love a good sci-fi book or a book with zombies in (that was suitable for his age), actually I do know one series – Captain Underpants (Girl Lacer loves them) but anything else out there?). So anyway, I also ended up buying the Usborne Young Reading version of Dracula (I am no way trying to influence them with my personal favourite book of all time, no of course not – although actually Girl Lacer is currently in the middle of writing a long story at school (I love how they teach story writing there, they’ve been actually planning their stories, with beginnings, middles and ends and mind maps!) and she’s been telling me what’s going to happen in it and apparently it’s got vampires in it but from what she was telling me I realised she wasn’t completely sure what a vampire does, so you can call me getting her Dracula an educational tool ) and also the Usborne Young Reading version of Cleopatra (as Girl Lacer loves all things Egypt) and for Boy Lacer I got him the Usborne Young Reading Stories of Monsters and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Dracula and Cleopatra, are both level 3 and Stories of Monsters and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice are both level 1, both levels probably a bit too easy for both Girl and Boy Lacer respectively but sometimes I think you can’t always be aiming to push their reading ability up a notch and sometimes you have to just buy them books that you know that they will just be able to pick up, get in to and read with less effort, so it’s not so much about the act of reading but it’s all about the story.
And finally, I also popped into HMV today (honestly, probably about the first time in ten years, as I download all my music and before that, when I was still buying CDs, getting them from places like Amazon and (sorry) supermarkets), as Girl Lacer is going to be fashionably late at a movie party and the movie in question is going to be ET. Now I love ET, ET to me is one of those childhood defining movies, so I couldn’t have Girl Lacer’s introduction to ET as being her watching it from about half way through, so I had to go and buy a copy today, I can’t believe I didn’t have a copy already. And also, whilst I was in there, I ended up buying the complete first season of The Muppet Show. Now we already do have a best off Muppets DVD, so I’m sure there will be some sketches we’ve already got, but awww Muppets to me is up there with ET, so you can’t over do it on the Muppets and I know the kids will love it (they love our current DVD, specially of course the mahna, mahna song – who doesn’t?). Both kids (but especially Girl Lacer) have been particularly in to watching Challenge TV recently (?????) and have been enthusiastically watching such gems as The Wheel of Fortune and argh what’s that one where they have to guess what the audience voted for to win a vacuum cleaner? Anyway, going into my living room at the weekend at the moment is liking stepping through a time vortex and into my living room 30 years ago when I was watching that programme where they win a vacuum cleaner and I hated it then, (imagine how I feel about it now?), probably because there were only 3 channels and I was waiting for The Muppets to be on, so anyway I am fighting back, if the kids want to watch TV from my childhood, Muppets has got to be better than Les Dennis, right?