Persuading The Short One To Read
Updated: Aug 31, 2022
My 6yo loves reading. He just doesn't know it yet. Or - knowing what he's like - he probably does, but just won't admit it! I admit it, I'm desperate for him to fall in love with books in the same way I did. His older brother did the same eventually, but it was hard-going to start with, so we've adopted the same approach this time around. Arthur wants pocket money, but we want him to get a sense of achievement from earning his money, so we pay him to read. He gets £1 per book. Experience has taught us to explain right from the beginning that they have to be what we consider to be 'proper' books i.e. those which are appropriate for his age and if they're too easy, then he can absolutely read them if he wants to, but he doesn't get the £1. So far it's been working very well (too well for our bank account!) and since the end of June he's read 18 books - a vast improvement - and he's rapidly developing his own taste in books, both fiction and non-fiction. There are a few series that he's totally fallen in love with but whilst I can see the merit of them for children, they don't necessarily appeal to me. There are however, a couple of exceptions. Simon Farnaby's Merdyn the Wild books have gone onto my TBR pile, for example. However, the ones which I wait for with just as much anticipation as the 6yo are Louie Stowell's books.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, 'A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.' And I completely agree. The best books of my childhood - The Wind In The Willows, Anne of Green Gables, The Dark Is Rising and Lewis' own Narnia books are ones I still enjoy reading as an adult. In Louie Stowell's books, we've found an author that we both genuinely enjoy and they're books we can experience and appreciate together.
Now here, I have to be honest. I first came across Loki, A Bad God's Guide To Being Good completely by chance in a bookshop. I was looking for a present for a friend's daughter and I thought it sounded like a really good book. I bought it for her and filed it away in my brain as one to buy for Arthur when he got a bit older and his reading got to the right level. However, a few months later, I saw on Twitter that Ben Willbond was going to be narrating the audiobook and my heart did a little flip. As anyone who reads this blog regularly will know, we are HUGE Horrible Histories fans in this house and Arthur particularly loves Mr W's Henry VIII voice. I quickly pre-ordered the audio version, told Arthur about it and we waited (a 'little' impatiently) for it to drop into our Audible library. When it arrived, I listened to it before he'd even come home from school and it was the book he went to sleep to that night. Well, I say 'went to sleep to' in the loosest sense of the word. Actually, he listened to pretty much the whole thing before he eventually fell asleep! He listened to it again the next night and again the one after that. And again. And again. Arthur is a creature of habit and once he finds a bedtime book he likes, he listens to nothing else until I persuade him to give something else a go. I knew he'd absorbed it when he started randomly quoting bits from it in an attempt at Ben Willbond's voice. ('Thor, god of bum thunder' was a particular favourite and he liked to randomly say it to people in the street, so he was definitely channelling his inner Loki!) I absolutely loved it - so much so that it was my joint book of the month on my July book roundup.
When we were going on holiday, he asked me to buy him the physical book so that he could read along with the audiobook. When the second book Loki, A Bad God's Guide To Taking The Blame came out, he begged me to pre-order both the audiobook and the physical one. It's very rare for me to do this - it's usually one or the other - but in this case, I was more than happy to do it. He was voluntarily reading beyond the 30 minutes I make him do every day and I couldn't have been happier! I was working when it was released, so had to wait to listen to it, but we put it on in the car when we were driving up north to see my mum and my husband chuckled along at the side of me. (This is a major feat in itself, as he's usually asleep within ten minutes of us setting off.) Arthur kept up a running commentary throughout, telling us when his favourite bits were coming up. It was every bit as good as the first one - my review of it will be on my end of August book roundup.
Arthur also kept asking me about the third one and when I saw that it was due in June, I got very excited, until I realised that we'd already past June this year and it was June 2023 so we had ages to wait for it! Consequently, I decided to have a look and see if there were any other books by the same author, which might appeal to him. I was delighted to find that there was a series set in a library, so as we had a day out planned for just Arthur and me, I downloaded the audiobook of the first one – The Dragon In The Library – and we listened to it as we drove down to West Horsley Place to do the Ghosts filming tour.
Those of you who know us in real life, will know that Arthur is 'something' of a chatterbox (the boy only stops talking when he's asleep). Not that day. I had to keep checking whether he'd fallen asleep because I've never known him be so quiet in the car. He was completely absorbed by the book and we were both miffed at having to stop it partway through because we'd arrived at the house! We finished it off on the way home and I asked if he'd like me to download the other two. Now sometimes, even if he's enjoyed a book, he's not that fussed about reading the rest of a series. Not so in this case. The answer was an immediate and resounding 'yes'. (I was secretly very pleased as I wanted an excuse to listen to them myself, plus it was SO nice having a quiet car journey!)
When Henry was little and struggling with his reading, I kept telling him that one day he would find a series that he just clicked with and then he wouldn't look back. He found that in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books. I've always told Arthur the same and I think in his case, he's found 'his' series in the Loki books, but while we wait for the third one to be published, he's now happy to read all kinds of other things and is well on his way to becoming the bookworm he keeps telling me he aspires to be. I just feel very lucky that he's chosen a series and an author that I can enjoy alongside him.