I have been reading Finn MacCoul and his Fearless Wife, A Giant of a Tale from Ireland, to my grandson Leo, aged 4. This is a brilliant picture book by Robert Byrd, (pub Hodder Wayland).
Leo’s other grandparents are Northern Irish, and I thought Leo would be interested in the picture of Ireland that is just inside the book. And, because of his obsession with heroes, the scaredy-cat hero, Finn.
I bought it ( along with a lot of other books) in a bookshop closing down sale long before Leo was born. In that stash is another we are currently enjoying: Anancy and Mr Dry Bone by Fiona French (pub Francis Lincoln). For Finn the connection is Ireland and Heroes, in Anancy it is the skeleton, Mr Dry Bone. In both cases the pleasure is to do with connecting to things he is already interested in. And in both cases, new information comes in as happy unintended side-effect.
Leo speaks as if DVDs and books are interchangeable. ‘I have a good story about someone called Sinbad…’ he’ll tell me, then some way into the conversation I’ll realise he is talking about a DVD. I ask him which he prefers.
‘DVD’ he replies before I’ve finished my question.
‘Quicker. You don’t have to wait for someone to read to you.’
I wonder whether this is frustration at not getting enough stories all the time from his loving mum, dad, granny grandpa etc – though we all do all we can, as fast as we can. When he can read himself, will it be better, quicker? The need to get information – and as fast as possible – seems basic, even instinctive. But I wonder if that apparently instinctive need would be there if DVDs weren’t?
Is he learning the need for speed by using the technology that already surrounds him? Or is it to do with the speed of download …. with the DVD the pictures go directly to your brain?
Poems I’ve been reading:
- The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W.B. Yeats ( because I had been planting beans, and remembered Yeats’ ‘bee-loud glade’
- Some bits of The Prelude where Wordsworth is thinking about the mind, about books, about reading.And that led me this morning to the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, which I’ve not read for 20 years.
If the time should ever come when what is now called science, thus familiarized to men, shall be ready to put on, as it were, a form of flesh and blood, the Poet will lend his divine spirit to aid the transfiguration, and will welcome the Being thus produced, as a dear and genuine inmate of the household of man.
It made me think about how interested some scientists are becoming in The Reader Organisation’s shared reading model. This week I met with an anesthetist who researches chronic pain. He arrived at my office convinced Get Into Reading could help his patients. He talked about neurons and inhibitors but also about the primacy of feeling and the fact that science still doesn’t have a way of understanding feeling – yet we, ignorant mortals as we are – do. In our bones, in our gut. Books help us find the language for things we feel but can’t say. I think that was why Finn McCoul was such a good story for Leo – he wants to be a hero, but he’s a four year old boy and spends (I guess) quite a lot of time being secretly -even to himself? – afraid. And how do you square that? In the story it comes down to native cunning and brilliant wife.