As most parents of little boys know, it is very difficult to get them into reading. Too much energy, too many distractions, too flitty-flighty in the concentration stakes.
Now my seven year-old son, Tom, happens to be pretty good at reading. He’s one of the best (boys, I might add) in his class and consistently gets 20 out of 20 in the weekly spelling tests.
But this has got nothing to do with his voluntarily participation in the process – it’s because he has a nagging Tiger Father on his back from hometime until bedtime.
This trait is both historical and based on an innate fear of failure – not his, but mine as a housedad.
I was skipping through chapter books when I was four years old (so my parents told me) but back then, in the late ’60s, I didn’t have the distractions of television, computer games and Wii.
What boy on the planet would want to read when there is a passive virtual world at your fingertips to explore?
And that’s where the fear of failure comes in. Since I became a housedad two years ago, I have constantly measured myself against my wife’s success as a Stay-At-Home-Mum before she and I swapped roles, and her role as an executive now that she is bringing home the bacon.
I need to earn my keep. I have always been results-driven, but without a monthly salary to show for my endeavours I need to prove it in other ways i.e. through the nurture, education and success of my children.
Pitiful, isn’t it?
But a Tiger Housedad can’t change his stripes! And thus, each and every evening, I strive to read, not only with my son, but his older sister and younger brother, too.
It can often be relentless and exhausting, not to mention utterly tedious. The middle child, especially, sees reading as a chore to get through so that he can get his ‘reward’ on the computer or in front of the box.
‘It would be so fantastic if one day, just ONE day, you would say to me: “Dad, I’d like to read my book now”, instead of me having to nag you about it,” I preach to him most nights.
But of course, he never does.
But just as my patience was about to snap, my high-flying wife flew to the rescue – as she so often does – by coming home one evening with a book that completely captured our boy’s attention and imagination.
‘Beast Quest: Ferno the Fire Dragon.’
What seven year-old could resist a title like that, not to mention the fantastic illustration on the cover of a young lad fighting a fire-breathing dragon on the cover.
‘What made you think of that?’ I asked my wife.
‘The hero’s called Tom,’ she said, matter-of-factly.
At first, both my wife and I took up the challenge to read the story with our Tom, dramatising both the voices and the actions of the sword-bearing slayer as he hunted down the dragon on a lengthy quest to defeat all the beasts in town, with an eventual goal to free his kingdom from the evils of a wicked wizard.
Oh what a simple plot. Oh, what a BRILLIANT plot. And, of, what a GENIUS commercial rouse – for there are around SIXTY books in the series, written by a late-20s history geek called Adam Blade (that can’t be his real name, surely!)
But who cares about its provenance – it’s the stories that count, and my son is completely hooked. He sped through the first book, which introduces the main characters (Tom, his trusty stallion Storm, his friend Elenna and her loyal wolf Silver), and then asked if he could get the next one.
The books are so cleverly written in that each ends with the Prologue of the next. In other words, a collectable – and you know what young boys are like with collecting things.
‘I want to read them ALL,’ said my Tom.
Which, at around a fiver a time, is going to cost me something like 300 quid. More expensive than the rocks and pebbles he’s been amassing, but a damn sight more educational.
I’ve bought the first seven, and he’s nearly finished the second – Sepron, the Sea Serpent – with a thirst to get on with the third – Arcta, the Mountain Giant.
Perhaps I can persuade Mr Blade to write a 61st: Housedad: The Tiger Father. Just a thought.
Anyway, if you’re interested in knowing more about these books, here’s a little pressee I’ve cut and pasted from Wikipedia about them.
“Tom is the protagonist of the series, a hero Avantia, and the only son of the legendary Taladon Swift, a Knight of Avantia. Tom inherited his great courage and valor from his father who disappeared mysteriously when he was a baby, leaving him to be brought up by his uncle and aunt in the village of Errinel. At the start of the first series of novels, the King of Avantia, King Hugo, invites Tom to embark on a quest to free the kingdom from the evil curses placed upon the Beasts that protect it. With his trusted companion, Elenna, Tom travels across Avantia, guided by a magic map. Accompanied by Storm, a jet-black stallion, and a faithful wolf named Silver, the two of them face the biggest adventures of their lives. Together, they set out to defeat the evil wizard Malvel and free the kingdom. In every Beast Quest book published to date, Tom declares his specific mission by proclaiming his catchphrase ‘While there’s blood in my veins!'”
• For the avoidance of doubt, this is not a sponsored post.