Category Archives: Books
Being a mum just got fun.
It’s all to do with the bedtime. Frog was given some books for her 1st birthday, you see. Special books. Books which have an important place in my own childhood.
I’d like to talk about libraries.
Bear with me, it’s important. (Frog’s Northern Granny says so and you don’t want to mess with her – she’s a librarian).
Now, unless you’ve been abroad for a year or living in a hole somewhere, you might have gathered there’s been a bit of a fuss about libraries recently. Back in February, there were a load of very civilized “Read-ins”, where people went and sat in their local library reading books for a day. While it all sounds rather relaxing, they were actually making a very important point: libraries are under threat and we need to start showing we care about them.
The thing is, it doesn’t end there.
You might not know about it, but the Government’s reviewing a raft of duties that local authorities legally have to stick to. The Public Libraries and Museums Act of 1964 is one of them. This is the law that says local authorities have to provide a comprehensive and efficient public library service. In plain English, it means the likes of you and me get free access to decent books as well as all the other things that libraries do nowadays.
For mums like me, I’m talking about rhyme times and story sessions for our babies. Not the expensive ones you have to pay for, but the free ones, which are accessible to everyone.
When I was tiny, my mum and I used to go to the library a lot. We would sit and read a whole range of books for an entire afternoon. It was a treat, something I looked forward to and got excited about. It wasn’t that we couldn’t afford to buy our own books, we had a house full of them. But in the library, there were whole shelves of new stories. Ones I’d never read before. And if I was really lucky, there would be a story time, where an old woman would read to us and we’d have a little sing-song. As a three year old, this was my version of a Take That concert.
Then I grew up and went to university. And the library once again became my friend. When I was back home and needed to research an essay or do some background reading, I knew I could pop along to the local library and pick up a book. It was a given. Easy.
And then I became a mum. Once again I turned to the library. Not to read up on anything this time, but to have a reason to get out of the house. I took my baby to rhyme time sessions and sing-along time. All free. Unlike the many other activities we do together.
But it looks like history won’t be repeated. When my daughter turns three, I won’t get to take her to the library. We won’t get to find a quiet corner and read some new books. She won’t get a mini Take That concert in the form of a sing-along session. Because the libraries are going.
Unless we do something about it.
Remember The Public Libraries and Museums Act I was banging on about just now? This is the law that says councils have a legal duty to provide library services. Well the Government wants to find out if we think this still stands. Should councils still have to provide libraries? Are they needed, or are they a “burden” (their words, not mine).
If you think this doesn’t affect you, think again. False Economy recently published a map showing all the cuts and proposed cuts to libraries around the UK. The chances are you’ll see a red mark where you live.
So please make Frog’s Northern Granny proud. Fill in that form and tell them you want to keep the libraries. For your children. And your children’s children. And your children’s children’s children. (I could go on, but you get where I’m going with this).
Call me an over-eager mum, but I love reading to my baby. I have done since she was about four days old. Maybe it’s because I had a bedtime story every night as a child, maybe it’s because I still love to read now. Or maybe it’s just that I like the sound of my own voice and having a baby is the perfect excuse to talk to someone who can’t tell me to shut up.
The poor girl never had a chance. Coming from a family of English teachers, Librarians, Journalists and Drama teachers, it’s fair to say Literature is in her genes (although we won’t count her computer game addict father whose idea of a good book is the autobiography of Chopper Reid, the famous Australian vigilante. Google him. Seriously scary).
From the day we brought Frog home from the hospital we decided to include a bedtime story as part of her night routine. Admittedly, at a week old she was very rude and slept through the whole thing, but I carried on with the stories, because I enjoyed finding out what happened at the end for myself.
I didn’t have the foggiest idea that reading to a baby is good for them, I just guessed it couldn’t be bad. But the research shows I’m not as stupid as I may have thought, because reading to a baby does have its benefits. Studies have shown that language skills are related to how many words an infant hears each day. In one study, children whose parents spoke to them a lot scored higher on standard tests when they reached age 3, compared to those whose mums and dads weren’t so verbal. And you can’t deny it, reading is a good way of talking to your baby, if general chit chat makes you feel like a bit of a plum.
But not all babies and children get read to, even if they would probably rather like it. We take access to books for granted, although with looming closures of many libraries maybe we shouldn’t. But, while we have to contend with library closures, in many parts of the world, some children have not even seen a book, let alone a library. It’s World Book Day on 3rd March and Book Aid International hopes to change this, in sub-Saharan Africa at least. If you have a minute, check out their blog and watch the video. If you question the power of books and reading, this may clear a few things up.
At nearly eight months, Frog now reaches for the pictures in her storybooks. She loves the sparkly fish in Little Fish Goes Exploring and laughs out loud when we read Dear Zoo. Her bedtime story has been the same one for the last five months, Bedtime with Humphrey, and now she won’t go to sleep without it. It’s a good way for her Dad and Grandparents to bond with her too, although I’m starting to detect a hint of boredom from her Dad when Humphrey comes out again, given away by his renaming of “Humphrey” to “Humphreyfina” (this is from the man who said he wanted to call his daughter Geoffafine because he likes the name Geoffrey so much).
Regardless of the ad-libbing, we will continue to read to Frog until she tells us to shut up, which I hope won’t be for a while yet. At least not until we’ve got to The Very Hungry Caterpillar. And Doctor Dog. And The Secret Garden. Oh, and Harry Potter. And The Gruffalo. And George’s Marvellous Medicine. And don’t forget The BFG. And Giraffe’s Can’t Dance. And Peace At Last.. And…………………………..
Is it just me, or do all women become a gibbering wreck after having a baby?
I am no exception. I’ve always been a bit of a cryer, but it’s got completely out of control since the birth of baby Frog.
I finished an amazing book last night (Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go) and was almost hysterical by the end. It’s the saddest, most thought-provoking book I’ve read in a long time.
Now, I’m not saying I wouldn’t have cried at this before Frog was born. I probably would have had a little sniffle. Maybe a few gentle tears. But not the chest-wracking, snot-inducing, puffy-face stuff of last night.
I don’t know what it is about having a baby, but any slightly emotional thing now seems so horrendously distressing, I’m too scared to even turn on the TV. The Corrie tram crash episodes had me wailing like a banshee. I was utterly distraught after Ringo died on Neighbours. And don’t even get me started on the “Are You Really My Dad” episode on Jeremy Kyle the other day. I needed to do some deep breathing into a paper bag just to regain my composure. (No judgements about my taste in TV by the way, that is a whole other post).
Maybe it’s still the hormones (although how long I can keep blaming them is anyone’s guess), maybe it’s the fact I can empathise more now with situations involving children and parents. Or maybe seven months of little sleep has left me constantly on the edge of tears anyway.
Whatever it is, I better grow out of it before Frog’s first day of school. Even a paper bag won’t bring me round from that one.