Sometimes people walk up to our stall and ask if we sell children’s books. When we say ‘no’ they tend to turn away. I then ask them: ‘Well, do you read?’ Often they shake they heads: ‘Unfortunately I don’t have time.’ they reply.
It always strikes me as odd how people want their children to read books but they don’t read themselves. As we all know: children copy their parents. And even as adults we easily fall back into habits we witnessed our parents do.
Our 15-year old son used to read. But no longer. A few biographies and autobiographies, a couple of novels a year. That’s it. My husband is dismayed. He claims that he read many classics at our son’s age, including Hardy and Dickens.
I certainly didn’t. In my teens I did not read excessively and, as for classics, only the ones I had to study for school. I began reading in earnest only in my early twenties. And I never liked Dickens. And still don’t. So I’m not worried about our son’s books habits. After all, he comes from a household with lots of books and book talk forms part of many dinner chats. I’m sure eventually he will find his way back to the excitement of reading.
But my husband isn’t convinced. So last year he struck a deal with our son. £10 for each 50 pages of Dickens. Oliver Twist to start with. In six months my son didn’t earn a penny. My husband proposed a new deal: a can of beer for 50 pages.
‘You can’t do that!’ I said. ‘That’s surely illegal.’
‘Let him be,’ the Nymph soothed me. ‘It’s for the good of literature. It can’t do much harm.’
‘Yes, it can, ‘ I insisted. ‘What if my son becomes an alcoholic?’
‘We cross that bridge when we come to it,’ Peirene responded matter-of-factly. ‘In the meanwhile your son might finish Dickens, start a Hardy, move on to TS Eliot. It won’t be long before he is reading The Looking- Glass Sisters.
She knows that she has me there. Not only would I be very flattered if Percy began to read Peirene books, he could then also work at the Roaming Stall. A young, good-looking man like him would surely sell many books. And he might even set a new trend among teenagers: reading foreign lit.
But I don’t expect that to happen any time soon. When I last went into his room, Oliver Twist was open on the bedside table. Page 39.
Image by Karl Baron.