My child, aged five, doesn’t like reading.
“I guess you don’t do much reading with her at home, do you,” says her teacher, framing a statement as a question, “as you’re too busy with your two younger children.”
I want to tell her that I’m a writer and that reading is my first love; that I read every morning and evening and whenever I can in the day.
That I read to my daughter when she was growing in my womb: Christina Rossetti, Sharon Olds, bloody Shakespeare. And then rhyming kids’ books when she was earth-side, and stories.
But I stay quiet.
I keep reading – to her; to myself; to my other children – and I never force my child to read to me. The school wants evidence of her reading daily and so I lie.
Aged eight, we discover there’s a reason she finds it hard. And that it’s not me failing her. Though I never really thought it was.
She is dyslexic.
Spelling is difficult too. But it doesn’t stop her writing; she is a prolific writer of poems, songs, stories, menus, diary entries.
I ask her new teacher if I should correct her spelling and she says: “no, that’s our job. Just let her write.”
So I ignore the wrong spellings and continue to enjoy hearing her clever stories and beautiful language.
With her own writing – her own creations – she reads happily.
I know of parents who fight against a dyslexia diagnosis, they find it hard that their child might be dyslexic.
I see it differently. I see a wise child and her beautiful mind and the creative ways she works around the parts that feel difficult.
I know that to be a good writer you need a curious mind. To observe the world and take an interest in people.
I also know that to be a good writer takes practice. No one is born an amazing writer, it is a craft that they learn.
Reading helps, too. But reading can mean someone else reading a story to you, or audiobooks.
Reading doesn’t have to mean focusing only on the boring books that are sent home from school.
In fact, this isn’t really reading, as I know it, at all.
It is a very narrow way of teaching phonics.
But when a book is boring, the child doesn’t learn. And so it is not ‘reading’, it is rejecting, refusing, ruining.
We are on holiday in Wales and there is no TV, no computer, no iPad or phones or Wifi.
When it’s raining outside, I spend hours tucked in the corner of the sofa, reading novels.
My daughter makes art, writes stories, designs a comic, skips through the marshland with her brothers and returns home soaking wet.
They collect moss and fallen petals and make offerings to Mother Earth and the spirits of the land.
On day three, she picks up a novel. She finds her own corner of the sofa, lit by a lamp; warmed by the fire, and stays there for hours.
She forgets to eat breakfast.
My husband and I mill about, making coffee and talking about life, while the boys play Lego, do pastel drawings, make their own notebooks using the cardboard from a cereal box and squabble over the Spiderman t-shirt.
She is oblivious to it all; she is fully immersed.
Occasionally, her eyes peep out above the book to update us on the story.
But mostly, she is on holiday with the characters; she is reading.