Reading the small print…the hidden perils of your child learning to read

May 2, 2018

Your child learning to read is one of the most magical moments of motherhood. It’s a major milestone, right up there with the first steps, them saying your name and the giddy wonder of when they actually sleep longer than five hours in a row. It’s a gift for life, it’s independence, it’s a whole load of nostalgia about the wonder of what awaits them (All the brilliant books ever written! Reading under the duvet with a torch! A lifetime love of The Library!).

But wait…is it?

The hidden perils of your child learning to read

It seems wonderful, but a couple of years on I’m beginning to read between the lines.

Here’s why:

The hidden perils of your child learning to read

They can tell when you don’t do things by the book: I’m not saying I would EVER do this *ahem* *side-eye*, but sometimes if it’s late and you’re tired or have a lot of other things to do you might…condense a book you’re reading together somewhat by skipping pages or giving the brief overview, not the full version…sound familiar? However, once they learn to read you have no hope. They will follow each line and if what’s coming out of your mouth is not what it actually says on the page, they will throw the book at you. And probably make you go right back to the start.

No sign is safe: So children have questions, I have…heard. But as soon as they read they have questions about everything they read around them, from signs to posters and billboard ads. Which might lead to you answering questions about, say, homelessness, cancer or dating apps on a packed rush hour tube. True and slightly awkward story.

They are exposed to questionable reading content: Since my mum bought us the Miffy boxset – which included *that* book where Miffy’s grandmother dies, which I didn’t realise until we were actually reading it – it’s fair to say our bookshelf has a more, well, optimistic edit. However, my daughter is now being exposed to a shocking selection of books from an unexpected source. Thanks, SCHOOL

Recent home reading books have included one about the Titanic, where, spoilers ahead, the sink ships and people perish. Then there was the book about Pompeii where, oh wait, everyone dies. And a recent tear-jerker which starts off as being about hamsters, but is actually about the adoption of a boy in the class whose parents couldn’t cope with him. I know you can’t wrap them up in cotton wool forever, but I’d like to avoid any early literary daggers to the heart, if possible. Another question ‘Why are you crying mummy?’

A case of writer’s block on the reading journal: As someone who writes for a living, it’s a constant source of shame to me that I can never think of anything to write on the daily reading journal. I’m sure I started off writing pages of flowery descriptive prose but now it’s a quick ‘Great reading!’ or a hastily scribbled ‘Read all.’ Again. As we dash off late for this.

They can read this: This, as in, this blog. People seem concerned about the future impact of people reading about children on their parent’s blogs, but what about them reading about me? I’ll quickly be exposed as the fraud I am, who is winging it.

You can’t spell it out: I’m pretty sure parents have communicated with each other since the dawn of time by spelling words out loud instead of saying them. But as soon as they learn to read and start to spell? End of story.

More posts…everything you’ll obsess about in your child’s first year of school and- In search of a responsible adult: the reasons I don’t feel old enough



  • Perdita

    May 2, 2018 at 1:25 pm

    A friend of mine said that learning to tell the time is another big win/lose moment. You can’t rely on “later” … they suddenly become very precise (about when soft play opens, but not about getting up for school…).

    1. gillian

      May 24, 2018 at 10:49 am

      I didn’t even think of that! Arghhhhh

  • Carmel at Beloved Connections

    May 10, 2018 at 1:55 am

    This is hilarious! Reading is such a special, magical time… or so we’ve been told. The downside? Your children are smarter, sharper, and a lot quicker at tattling on YOU! Love this post, very cute and fun to read 🙂

    1. gillian

      May 24, 2018 at 10:49 am

      Thank you so much! x

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