Thanks Mum, For Making Me Read

If I am honest I do think that Mothering Sunday, which is upon us here in the UK, is actually a big mass of cash spinning marketing. If you like your Mum, tell her when you see her or speak to her, if you don’t like her then don’t tell her, or see her. Ha! Anyway, that aside I thought it might actually be a nice idea to do a post about my mother considering without her influence I wouldn’t be the reader I am today and I am not sure I have ever thanked her for that in person, so I thought I would do it publically. She’ll be embarrassed but that is what sons are for or is that what parents are for? Either way…

My mother (that’s her there —>) had me at the age of 16 years old back in 1982, in fact almost 30 years ago to the week how apt (apparently she is ‘fine, yes fine, why do you ask’ about being 46 and having a soon to be 30 year old son). Not that it was the dark ages, but at that time not only was it a rather shocking occurrence it was also one that could curtail your studies and career, especially if you were going to be a single mum, as my Mum was even though she had the support of my grandparents. This wasn’t to be the case with my mum, she carried on her studies and took me with her to Newcastle where she gained a degree in Classics. I always say that having been to university from the ages of three to six is why I didn’t feel the need to go myself, excuses, excuses.

It is at university that my first memories of Mum reading to me are the strongest. I can vividly remember, after me throwing matchbox toy cars at her head to wake her up at 6am, the joy of getting into bed with her in the morning and being read children’s classics like the Ladybird Fairytales, Roald Dahl, Jill Murphy and the seminal works of ‘The Adventures of He-Man’ or ‘The Adventures of She-Ra’. It was also at this point books really took on a life of their own when she would read me the stories my granddad wrote and illustrated for me, which even featured me in them (and a certain Novel Insights who I had befriended aged 4), about the tales of a witch called Esmeralda and all her friends. You can see them below and read about them further here.

Studying Classics meant I also got the entire myths and legends from the Greeks and indeed the Romans regularly, I don’t know if it was because of her enthusiasm for the subject or if it helped her revise, in fact most nights. I seem to remember this is when ‘The Saga of Erik the Viking’ by Terry Jones appeared on the scene and was read often along with the nonetheless epic ‘Flat Stanley’. However it was an illustrated edition of the story of Persephone which I vividly remember from the time and would read over and over. I lost the love for Classics when I became a teenager and my Mum was teaching it at my school, odd that, but it’s nice to see it has recently been awakened by Madeline Miller’s ‘The Song of Achilles’ where the joy of reading about the gods, goddesses and monsters (I had a moment of utter joy when a centaur first graced the pages of this book) has been reignited. More on that tomorrow…

The library was a  place we always went regularly, as were charity shops. I remember once buying a new version of the story of Perseus from Oxfam for 50p, Mum opening it impressed and then seeing the joy drain from her face as she swiftly returned it, it seemed it was a rather over racy (Perseus does porn kind of thing) version of the story and not really appropriate for a young boy of eleven. Sherlock Holmes was though, and as my great uncle memorised them on walking holidays to stop me being bored, we would pop to Waterstones (a real treat) on the way home after she had picked me up to get a new collection, this was also when we fell upon Robin Jarvis and ‘The Whitby Witches’.

A year or so later Mum gave me my first proper grown up book in the form of ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Suskind, I wonder if my Nancy Drew obsession that summer when we went to Africa had made her worried I would end up with no taste – I still like a crime. Her attitude was if I was going to start reading grown up literature it had to be the good stuff. This was followed by attempts to lead me to Margaret Atwood but I wasn’t biting. I was studying books, and whilst my Mum might have become a good English teacher, my English teacher (one of her colleagues, oops) was slowly taking all the joy out of reading and after I left school early I avoided books like the plague. Mum had laid the foundations though.

In fact looking back whenever I ended up living back at home, which happened a few times after some particularly bad relationship decisions I made and their tumultuous endings, Mum would let me have a good cry and suggest ‘maybe pick up a book’. This could have been to show me books are always there for you, or it could have been to provide some escape, or she maybe just wanted me to stop crying and leave her alone, ha. Whatever the reason though at times of turmoil bookshelves and books would be in my head, even if I wasn’t rushing out to buy them, and they still are. When things have turned to the proverbial, pick up a good book, or a bad one.

Nowadays of course when we see each other books are one of the main things we talk about – who cares how the other one of us is, what we have been reading is far more important. Our tastes can be bang on (Anne Tyler, Margaret Atwood, Samantha Harvey) or completely polar (Susan Hill, owning a Kindle) but we both love books and really that’s down to her, with some help from Gran too of course. It’s nice seeing she has done the same with my thirteen year old sister (though Twilight, really?) and eleven year old brother (Harry Potter ‘which he is reading quicker than me and won’t wait’) and she continues to do so as an English teacher, in a school where kids aren’t generally fans of books but they will be, or else.

So thank you Mum for giving me the gift of books, the encouragement to read and forcing me into the library when sometimes I didn’t want to go. Look what it lead to. Happy Mothers Day.

You can read my Mums favourite books here and see her get a readers grilling here.


Filed under Book Thoughts, Louise Savidge, Random Savidgeness

12 responses to “Thanks Mum, For Making Me Read

  1. What a great post. My mum started me reading too and though she didn’t have much money she would buy me a book a week from the bookstall on the market. My mum’s not around now but she has left me a lasting legacy of the love of books. Thanks for reminding me.

  2. Jo

    A lovely post Simon. Your mum sounds like one in a million. In fact all mums are I know.

    My mum and reading go together as well.

  3. gaskella

    Lovely post Simon – your Mum sounds lovely too.

    My late Mum got me reading well before I went to school and I never stopped. In her later years, I kept her supplied with books as we had very similar tastes. She’d write her thoughts on sticky notes for me when returning the books, and I still come across them now and then which brings it all back…

  4. I did enjoy reading this – and I am so glad you appreciate your mother the way you obviously do.

  5. What a wonderful post! Thank you.

  6. Jen

    What a wonderful mother you have, Simon!

  7. Samir

    You’ve a great mother who not only encouraged you to read but does the same for others! My mom would give me money to buy comics and children’s books when I turned 6… and this continued… till today. Where my birthday gift is money to buy books. What more can I ask for 🙂

  8. Ruthiella

    Lovely post Simon and you have a lovely mom too. I had to laugh when I read “who cares how the other one of us is, what we have been reading is far more important”. I usually see my sister and my mother every Sunday morning. We read (and don’t talk) and eat breakfast together. That is our quality time!

  9. a lovely post simon ,all the best stu

  10. Janet D

    My mum kick started my reading obsession too. She and I went each week to Boots lending libraries in Rotherham and Sheffield and also the main library. I have fond, and strong, memories of the feeling of being able to choose any book there and take it home. Buying books with any pocket/birthday/errand money soon followed and the love has never died.What a gift she gave me in that love for reading.
    Happy birthday this week Simon.

  11. Glad you all liked this post, the more I think about it the more of a legend I think my Mum is… but don’t tell her that, it would freak her out.

  12. Your Mum sounds great. You were very lucky to have her share her love of books adn reaidng with you when you were young (and now too,l of course.) neither of my parents or Grandparents are/were readers but my Gran bought me an Enid Blyton book every week, which I devoured over and over again. I am so grateful to her for doing that as it became a weekly ritual and one I looked forward to with glee each week – the book would be waiting for me on my bed when I came home from school. My Mum finally realised how much of a bookworm I was so she took me to a Library for the very first time when I was 9 and I’ve been going as regular as clockwork ever since.

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