I’D just spent far too much of my Saturday cleaning out Jemima the Hamster’s two stinky cages when a load of heavy books landed on me.
I was not impressed. Closer inspection of the large bookcase in the boys’ room showed they’d wrecked it – mostly by shoving oversized books horizontally on top of already overstuffed, now broken shelves. It was like a precarious book-based giant game of Jenga.
Needless to say, the elder boys and I spent far too much of Sunday trying to fix the shelves and sort the books. It was way overdue. We hadn’t got rid of any books for 14 years and yet they rarely returned to any of them once they got past the bedtime story age.
But once they started sorting, I could sense they weren’t going to give them up easily. Rather than sorting them into piles – charity shop, recycling and back-in-the-bookcase – they both settled down and started to read. They might be barely into their teens but the room stank of nostalgia: “Aw, do you remember this one?” “Ah, there’s my ‘Where the Wild Things Are.” “No, it’s not yours, that was bought for me, I remember being read it. . . look, here’s where I ripped it. . .” and so on.
At one point the entire family was in the room, either having a long-forgotten bedtime story read to them, fighting over an out-of-date football annual or simply trying to sneak some of the tattier, drawn-in volumes out to the bin.
So I’ve inadvertently come across a way to get your children interested in reading: tip the contents of a small library all over their bedroom floor and then threaten to chuck it all out again. Which reminds me, I think there may have been overdue library books in those piles somewhere . . .