Monthly Archives: February 2012

Books Change Lives

It’s World Book Day on Thursday. All over the UK (and probably in a lot of other places,) parents are frantically gluing, sewing, crocheting or buying costumes. I decided to get organised this year and began planning Tom’s costume in January. He wanted to be Fantastic Mr Fox, so I started watching ears, tails and foppish jackets on eBay.

I don’t know many people with children, but the general consensus I get from parents in the virtual world is that World Book Day is either an exciting challenge or a pain in the arse. All of this can make us forget what the day is all about. So, forget the tin foil / fur fabric / superglue for a moment and read this:

Last year, Book Aid International sent over half a million books to sub-Saharan Africa. This incredible charity helps to improve education, literacy and development in the places that need it most. While we’re busy tweeting and texting and looking things up on Wikipedia, it’s easy to forget how powerful and useful books can be. It’s also easy for us to take for granted the ease with which we and our children can get hold of pretty much any book we like, for cheap or even free.

Book Aid International helps people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to books. In Kenya, for example, hundreds of thousands of children never even get to finish primary school, because they’re too poorly, or they’re looking after a relative with HIV or Aids, or they need to go to work in order to be able to survive. Those who do make it through primary school work in classrooms with no books and unsurprisingly, leave with low levels of literacy.

Winnie is a primary school pupil who wouldn’t be learning to read if it wasn’t for the work of Book Aid International. She said: “I like reading books because books are the things that motivate us and let us be who we want.”

Winnie’s quote really touched me; books don’t just inform, they also inspire.

So, if you’re cursing the school for springing World Book Day on you at the last minute, or yourself for forgetting to sort out a costume, take a minute to visit the website and find out what you can do to help. And if you’re not a parent and you’ve never sewed / stuck together / stolen a costume and don’t know what the heck I am going on about, still go along to the website and see what you can do to help.

Tom didn’t end up having to dress up this year (I don’t think I could have managed a fox and a pyramid in one month.) Instead, he had to design a book cover. I tried telling him that I think you’re supposed to base it on existing book, but he insisted on inventing his own. Completely bonkers but very ace:

"Did you know oranges could dance? Oscar is meant to but he can't. Bill the banana and Jerry the cherry teach him in this exciting book."



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Happy Valun Times Day

Tom lost a tooth, which happened far sooner than I had imagined and gave me a bit of a shock. There it was; a tiny cream and hollow thing sitting on the rug. And in his mouth, a hole full of blood and a great big serrated newcomer poking through behind.

Twitter research determined that the going rate is two pounds, a whole ten times the amount I used to get. It wasn’t even that long ago. But Mum had bought Tom a little wooden tooth box with a smiley face and a hat and just enough room inside for a quid, so that was that decision sorted out.

“Do tooth fairies really exist?” Tom asked at bedtime.

“Of course they do,” I wondered how many teeth worth of belief I will get out of him before the Year Twos spoil it, “They need teeth to build houses, that’s why they collect them.”

“Do they have schools too?”


“And shopping presinks?”

“Maybe, but they probably look nicer than the one in Salford.”


“Night night.”

He shouted me in the morning. “She came! She left fairy dust (snipped up bits of Christmas ribbon) and a coin and a letter.”

“What does the letter say?”

“It says… Thank. You. For. Your. Tooth. My. Fairy. Friends. And. I. Will. Use. It. To. Make. Buildings. In. Our. Little. Fairy. Town. You were right, she’s definitely real!”

I wish this bit would last longer than the milk teeth. What a fuss there was about them arriving, then five minutes later, they’re gone.

When I collected him from school that afternoon, his teacher said “He’s very excited about Valentine’s Day, you know.”

“Why are you excited about Valentine’s Day?” I asked, as we walked home.

“I just am, Mum.”

This morning it was my turn to be surprised. I came downstairs to a brand new living room. Shoes had been put in pairs in the hallway, books were stacked on shelves, cushions arranged beautifully on the sofa, toys in the toy box, the twenty five catnip mice that decorate the floor hidden away, the remote controls lined up neatly on the armchair.

“Happy Valun Times Day!” said Tom, producing a handmade card that said Lost of love on Valun Times inside.

“When did you do this?” I said, looking at the clear floor.

“This morning, while you were asleep.”

Why did you do this?”

“Because it’s Valun Times Day. I’ve been planning it for a while, actually.”

The thought of him concentrating as he carefully aligned remote controls and hurriedly hid mice warmed my heart, there’s no other way to put it.

This evening, I read with interest STFU Parents’ article A Mothers Love on Valentine’s Day. STFU, Parents is a blog about parents who overshare on social media sites. The fact I often find it funny makes me feel a little uneasy, given the fact I write about being a parent, but these people take it to extremes. Today’s article raises some interesting points about (and frankly terrifying examples of) mothers’ obsessions with their little boys. After reading, I wondered for a second if it was alright to feel touched by what Tom did this morning. Then I read this piece by Jeanette Winterson about love as an alternative currency and realised that Valentine’s Day shouldn’t just be about secret admirers and fluffy handcuffs and shagging, but about back-to-basics, good old fashioned love, in all its forms. It’s a hard thing to talk or write about without sounding cheesy, maybe that’s why we avoid it (I do, anyway.)

Tom tidying the living room, just like me chopping up the end of the Christmas ribbon to make fairy dust, was an act of love. And they’re bloody lovely things when they happen — romantic or not.

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