Being Dad Books

To read children’s book or not

Children's books
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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

What do you read your child? Does it even matter? We find out.

My daughter is four months old. Whenever I sneeze, she jumps – then sobs. So I know her hearing works fine. I’m pretty confident, then, she can hear me muttering monotonously away, reading Marcel Proust out loud as she lounges on my legs. It doesn’t matter that the prolix Frenchman won’t be rubbing spines with Peppa Pig any time soon in a bookshop. At the moment she can’t understand words from worms. Often, I can’t fathom Proust. In our own ways, we’re battling similar experiences.

The most important thing is that I’m regularly reading to her and that she’s listening to my voice. Killing time together while also trying to assuage my mercurial book list, I’ve come to realise, is a consequential perk of early fatherhood. But I also need her to have a stronger vocabulary in school because it reflects well on me as an egotistical and begetting man, if I’m honest.

Bedtime with Bear
Children's books

Marcel Proust, posing.

But despite its appeal, my daughter can’t be used forever as a pawn for personal reading habits. Eventually, a lot of neuron connections later, she’ll be able to parse my words. And when that happens I’ll pull out one of the few children’s books cramped at the bottom of my bookcase and read with vim the story of Bedtime Bear. I’ll place my hand into the mouth of the toy bear that sticks out of the book, summon a sound that shall pass no other mortal ear bar ours and state, “Tasty cookies. Yum, yum!”

How long to Pluto?

On the more edifying side of children’s books, I have one about a kid with one eye. He’s shunned by people for looking different. It takes a quick trip to Pluto with his dog for everyone to grasp that he’s the same as them. Less an eye. You see, reading helps give children the morals they need to survive merrily through to dotage. An even greater aide for happy living, reading is the wordy wand that alakazams imagination into motion. Because no boy and his pet is ever going to land beyond, realistically in a world of Elon Musk, Mars. But what mirth we’ll have thinking about it.

Meanwhile back on Earth, we’ve got 1,800 pages of Proust to go before I even think about children’s books and ursine impressions. Sorry, sweet Lola.