CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Clare Mackintosh: Listen with Mother

PUBLISHED: 17:08 22 January 2016 | UPDATED: 17:08 22 January 2016

"Listening to a non-fluent reader makes me want to rip my own ears off and use them as bookmarks."


Now my children can read to themselves, why don’t these unwittingly ungrateful offspring read to me?

My heart filled with joy the first time one of my children asked to read their school book to themselves, instead of reading aloud to me. Not (just) because it was an indication of how far they had come, and not (just) because it meant I could instead make packed lunches, locate a lost pair of trainers, and work out how to magic some supper out of a packet of bacon, a tin of chickpeas and some leftover roast potatoes. My buoyant mood stemmed instead from the sheer relief that I no longer had to sit at the kitchen table, listening to a child stammer their way through the Magic Key series.

I love being with my children. I love reading. Ergo, I should love listening to my children read, right? Not so. I take my hat off to primary school teachers, because listening to a non-fluent reader makes me want to rip my own ears off and use them as bookmarks. “Sound it out,” I’d say to a then six-year-old Evie. “K - i - t - t - e - n,” she’d say, confidently. “Brilliant!” I’d cheer. “So what’s the word?” A moment’s silence, as she’d scan the illustrations hopefully. “Cat?” “Not quite!” I’d trill, through gritted teeth. “Let’s try again.” On and on, it would go, my jaw spasming from too much engineered smiling.

With three children all born within 15 months, evening reading was a production line affair; twins Evie and Georgie first, then their older brother, his seniority meaning chapters instead of pictures; books an inch thick, instead of pamphlet thin. Even then I struggled.

“Oh. No. Cried. Mum,” Josh would intone; the most exciting story rendered dull as ditchwater, by his laboured diction. “Oh no!” I’d repeat, leaping up with an expression more fitting of a Hammer horror film. “Hear the difference? Read that bit again.” “Oh. No. Cried. Mum.” I was beginning to know how she felt.

I am not blessed with patience. In this respect I am very much like my father, who drew huge pleasure in carrying out science experiments with his older grandchildren, but never knew quite what to do with a toddler. Not for me the baby days, or the faltering steps of an almost-walker. Sweet, yes. Amazing, yes. Interesting? Not so much. And so it is with reading. After that first term at school, when their transition from non-reader to reader seemed like alchemy, I found the reading journey more chore than pleasure. A necessary path to follow, in pursuit of fluency.

But when they got there… oh what a joy! Finally I could listen to their reading without a fortifying swig of Pinot Grigio; without straining to hear the words, or make sense of a sentence lacking audible punctuation. Finally I could see the results of my Hammer horror acting; my children looked up as they read, they smiled, they laughed, they used pauses to build suspense. They were storytellers.

Now that my children are older, I am no longer obliged to sign their reading record beneath a suitably enthusiastic comment. Their reading is ‘self-guided’; they choose their own books, read every day, and write a line or two about each story for their teacher to review. They are confident, articulate readers with eclectic literary tastes and a vocabulary to match.

“Will you read to me?” I asked Josh the other day. He looked up from his book; smiled politely. “I’d rather read in my head,” he told me. “If you don’t mind.”

But I did. I remembered those afterschool reading sessions; the chores neglected in favour of books. I remembered the rare opportunity they gave me to spend time with just one of my children. I remembered the weight of a small body in my lap, and the tickle of their hair on my cheek as I leaned forward to see the page. I remembered it all. And I missed it.

Follow Clare on Twitter: @ClareMackint0sh


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Cotswold Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Cotswold Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Cotswold Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & about

Celebrate the other side of Yuletide in the South Gloucestershire village of Marshfield, where on Boxing Day a curious procession from another age can be seen making its way along the High Street...

Read more

Get out and enjoy seasonal celebrations with a Cotswold twist

Read more
Friday, December 14, 2018

The Cotswolds are abundant with picture perfect locations ideal for a ramble. Gather loved ones, wrap up warm and blow away the cobwebs with one of these winter walks in the region

Read more
Monday, December 10, 2018

Tracy Spiers takes an impressive, if hypothetical, budget on a shopping spree in Cheltenham’s independent stores

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Hundreds of participating National Lottery-funded visitor attractions across the UK are saying ‘thanks’ to people who have raised money for good causes by buying a lottery ticket, including a number of venues in the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, December 3, 2018

“We’re looking forward to lots of festive fun this Christmas festival and hope to welcome lots of people to our town.”

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

“Faringdon upholds old-fashioned values through its traditional shops, personal service and shop owners who go the extra mile to make their customers feel at home.”

Read more
Friday, November 23, 2018

Home to some of the country’s most breathtaking architecture and picturesque gardens, the Cotswolds boasts plenty of beautiful stately homes you need to visit. We pick eight special locations that are made even more magical during Christmas time

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Taking the classroom outdoors is fun, inspires fresh ideas, broadens horizons – and encourages a new generation to enjoy and care for the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, November 19, 2018

Chipping Campden – once the meeting place for a council of Saxon kings – now offers the warmest of welcomes to all its visitors, from the humble shopper to the seasonal shin-kicker

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search