Tric Kearney: 'Three of our four children barely read and I suspect two would return my gift completely if they had the receipt'

IF you saw me today, you might notice I’m wearing my ‘don’t mess with me’ face. What’s bothering me? Could it be my children? Or yer man? Maybe even the dog? No, on this occasion they’re entirely innocent. It was Facebook, writes Tric Kearney.

Yes, today Facebook and I fell out when I read yet another post telling me: ‘The love of reading is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child’.

“Rubbish,” I shouted at my laptop, before storming off in a rage.

Why so cross, you may wonder? Do I not agree with it? Well, I did wholeheartedly agree with it once upon a time, but that was before I had children of my own. I even blamed the parents of children who didn’t enjoy reading for not making enough effort. After all, was it not the efforts of my own mother which had influenced me?

I could never forget the bedtime stories she told my brother and I as we sat on her lap as children, so vivid they either terrified us or led us to tears. Or the trips to the library every fortnight, not to mention the joy of cycling to the shop to buy our weekly comic. From an early age, I was hooked and remember using a torch to read under the covers, long after I was supposed to be asleep, one ear on high alert for the footsteps of a parent on the stairs.

Finally, as a mother-to-be, it was my turn to pass on this gift. I couldn’t wait to share it with my own children.

One by one they arrived, and I did all my mother had done. I relished every minute reliving my childhood as I read old favourites to my little ones, along with a whole library of new titles.

I roped yer man in and rarely a night went by without one or both of us reading a bedtime story, or better still making up our own. Our children had bedrooms with bookshelves full of books and choosing what story to be read was serious business.

By the time we’d finished reading to the last child, we’d been reading stories for 20 years. Yes, 20 years. We’d covered everything from hardback baby books and the dreaded window-opening books, right up to Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, JK Rowling and Anthony Horowitz.

And what reward did I get for taking the time to hand deliver the gift of reading to them for all those years? Three out of the four of our children barely read and I suspect two would return my gift if they had the receipt.

So you may now understand why I rage when I read posts about giving our children ‘the precious gift that is the love of reading’. It didn’t work. Maybe my children are exceptional? Or could it be that adventures in books pale in comparison to real life entertainment via smartphones and online? Or is it as simple as, my children do not enjoy reading books?

And you know what? They are normal. They are fun, educated, articulate, interesting, and imaginative individuals. I equate them to those children who have sporty parents but who grow up uninterested in sport. They are who they are. They know how wonderful a story can be and what it is like to lose themselves in a fictional life. Yet they chose not to read. And that is their choice.

However, having said all that, the truth is, a small part of me will never give up and so there’s every chance, as I’m so well in with Santa, that a book will fall into their stockings this Christmas and every Christmas to come. And who knows, maybe someday they might even ask for one?

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