Claire King


Monkey see, monkey do.

Posted on: October 29th, 2012 by Claire - 8 Comments

If you have children, or nieces, nephews etc, you’ll have seen their capacity and inclination for imitation. They don’t just copy the gestures and words others use, but the way we behave with other people, the activities we engage in and the tools we use. It’s one of the things that makes us human.

Since they were very young, my daughters have been used to me going away regularly for work. I was writing, but it happened on trains, or at night when they were asleep. But the Christmas when they were 5 and 3 I got a book deal. “Why are you so happy?” they asked. “Mummy is a writer,” I told them.

Within weeks, their games had changed. Previously, playing at being Mummy involved putting on shoes with heels, packing a case and sweeping out of the house, calling back, “I’m off to work. I’ll  be back on Friday, try and be good for Daddy.”

Now, aged 7 and 5, they get out pens and paper and they write stories, poems, anything and bring them to me like offerings. “I am a writer,” they say.

They way they engage with books is different too. They notice when a book is published by Bloomsbury. They are interested in the authors and illustrators of books, make connections, write fan letters even.

And recently, I’ve noticed something else. If I read on my Kindle, computer or phone, they go for computer games (or else choose a different activity altogether). But if I sit and read a paper book, within minutes they are rifling through their books for something to read themselves. In the parenting game of teaching by example we have hit a stumbling block:

My children don’t think reading on an electronic device is the same as reading a book.

Photo (c) Jer Kunz via Flickr Creative Commons


8 Responses

  1. Jo Carroll says:

    They’ll get there – eventually. What is wonderful in this post is the great example you are setting them. They may never be writers, but they’ll always love reading.

    • claire says:

      Thanks Jo, I’m sure they will. They both have devices with reading material on, but they do consider that very differently to paper books. It may be the accessibility of the format, or of course they might just be picking up my own preference for paper books (even though I now read many things electronically)!

  2. Mary says:

    My sons are keenly interested in books and writing. They’ve even been known to “sort of enjoy” poetry readings. I’ve featured in homework on estimation (What activity takes about 3 years to finish? “My Mom’s PhD book.”). Keep prioritising books, words, & imagining….

    • claire says:

      I love the PhD quote! It’s wonderful that they understand what you are doing though. Most jobs done out of the home seemed so abstract to me as a child. It’s a privilege to be able to involve them in something that is work, but also a miraculous world to explore.

  3. Kate Brown says:

    Nola saw a Kindle for the first time this weekend. Until then she’d wanted an ipod for her ninth birthday. Within five minutes she decided she wanted a Kindle instead. “It can do more,” she said. She and a friend had been doing spelling games on it. “What about music?” I asked. She said, “It doesn’t matter, because you can read books on it.” We’ll see. I’m thinking about buy one for myself first…

  4. Megan Mulry says:

    I have noticed this exactly. If I am reading on my iPhone Kindle app, kids get frustrated and tell me to get off the phone. If I’m reading a paper book, they settle down to whatever they are doing or pick up books of their own. Thanks for this.

    • claire says:

      That’s interesting, Megan. Yes, mine too are much more agitated if it’s the phone. As though the phone is a direct competitor for their attention that they don’t understand, whereas a book is understandable.

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