The school have sent a strongly worded email.
Not just to me, I hasten to add. Clearly I’m not the only one whose waning enthusiasm for Biff, Chip and Kipper books is beginning to show. Four times a week, children must read, it says. Four times a week they must have something written in their reading record.
When I first saw this reading record, I was elated. Finally, I think to myself, my brilliance as a nurturing parent will be recognised. I can write in all the books Mummy has ever read to Piglet. We shall go to the library and find new ones, just so we can write them in, and the reading record-and Piglet’s head, so eager to learn- shall be bursting with the whimsical poetry of Julia Donaldson and the impressive technical vocabulary of the non-fiction section, where we shall reel off the names of long-extinct giant reptiles with fluency and panache, as though we spent all day in Jurassic Park hanging out with Diplodocus and Iguanadon.
It’s only later-after being too embarrassed to ask either the school, who probably think that being a teacher, these things should be second nature to me-or the other parents, in case they judge me for my ignorance and throw me out of the PTA app, that I find myself asking SOMEONE I AM ACTUALLY ON A DATE WITH for his wisdom on the reading record (desperate times. “What is it actually for?” I cry, “and what do you even write in it?”), and learn that it’s only supposed to be for books that Piglet has actually read himself, rather than ones he has merely listened to.
One whole term in, and I am looking at Piglet’s reading record despondently. He has had the same book for well over a month, and the entries are sparse. A date in November here, one or two in December there. It’s definitely not adding up to four times a week.
“I can’t read!” He wails piteously, in a voice I haven’t heard before. It’s the voice of an older child, frustrated and a little bit more jaded. I put on my best Encouraging Teacher Voice and try to cajole him, and eventually he flicks through Biff, Chip and Kipper’s latest wordless adventure, telling me the story quickly, as though it’s far too obvious. It would have to be a book with no words, he said. His robot arms are tired.
I imagine all the other children coming into school, book bags bursting with new and exciting reading material, devoted parents who have all the patience in the world to listen to their faltering attempts to sound out each word, as I battle each evening to stop the child from throwing books around as he rolls around his bed, refusing to sleep and pretending to be being tortured by the Tickle Monster as I give up on phonics and ask him if he would prefer me to read him his choice of reading book, which tonight, inexplicably, is The Strictly Come Dancing Annual 2019*. He runs his toy car over pictures of his favourite besequinned characters and I wonder whether he is actually listening as he demands that I read him interviews with Kevin Clifton, Giovanni Pernice and Dr Ranj.**
What to write in the reading record? The school are promising rewards for children who meet their four times a week target. Do I tell the truth? “Piglet moaned that he couldn’t read and refused to read Phonics Stage 1a: I Am Sam, as it was too difficult, and said he hated books, so I offered to read him a book of his choice instead, and he chose the Strictly Come Dancing Annual, so he still can’t read, but on the plus side, he can now do the paso doble.”
I settle instead for “Piglet is still enjoying Biff, Chip and Kipper.” I wonder if it still counts as reading if there aren’t actually any words.
*It’s my mum’s. Honestly.
**His choices not mine.