My children love me reading aloud to them. Selfish little sods.

A major new survey of children’s reading habits has revealed that a third of the multi-GCSE owning youngsters of today believe that books are for “nerds” and half think libraries are boring – and that’s despite plans to introduce gay fairytales into the National Curriculum.

Personally, I thought that gay fairytales had been around for years – Snow White and the Seven Co-Habiting Dwarves, anyone? – but thanks to Clause 28, a bill which in my day banned schools from “promoting homosexuality” in case children became gay overnight after discovering that there’s more to love than boy meets girl, I never got to read ‘Jenny lives with Eric and Martin’.

Poor old Jenny caused uproar in the 1980s, when the Daily Mail discovered that the Labour-controlled Inner London Education Authority had placed copies of the book about a little girl living with her father and his gay partner in school libraries.


Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin. Deal with it.

Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin. Deal with it.

She was quickly removed, and replaced with lots of staunchly heterosexual books about morally upstanding subjects like algebra, geography and the Cold War. By God no one was going to catch gay from a school library, or if they did, it’d be because they’d looked it up in an uncensored dictionary.

These days, children are so intelligent that they are passing 34 GCSEs each while simultaneously being the least literate generation since we sent nine-year-olds up chimneys or down mines. When pupils from 35 schools were asked what they thought about reading, one wrote: “Reading is the last thing i (sic) would want to do i would rather die.” And that was the most enthusiastic response.

The gay fairytales need to be drafted in quickly before reading becomes something quaint which used to happen in the olden days, like riding side-saddle or smiling at people in the street without being knifed. Who could resist ‘And Tango Makes Three’ about gay penguins who fall in love and raise an adopted child? Or ‘King and King’ about a prince who searches his kingdom for a princess to marry before realising he actually fancies other princes?

I only wish my own children favoured such literature instead of steadfastly sticking to the kind of books which give you newfound sympathy for the unnamed pupil quoted above.

For example: I challenge anyone in full possession of a working brain to read The Scooby Doo Storybook Collection without mentally assessing any nearby beams for their potential to bear the weight of a noose and a swinging body.

Hours of my life have been squandered to that damnable book, clearly written by a revengeful depressive attempting to bring the rest of the world into his dark nightmare, and I will never, ever get them back.


Now let me think: where did I put the Scooby Doo Story Collection again...?

'Now let me think: where did I put the Scooby Doo Story Collection again...?'

On the rare occasions that I have been able to hide the Scooby Doo Storybook Collection somewhere so cunning that my son can’t find it (past successes have included putting it in a plastic bag and placing it in the toilet cistern) I am faced with a book about the revolting personal lives of insects.

I say “a book”, I mean one single passage, which I have now been reciting on a continuous loop for several long years. Let’s put it this way – I finally have a specialist topic which I could take to the Mastermind studios.

My boy is endlessly fascinated with the life and times of the Bombardier Beetle, a highly-strung creature which defends itself from predators by firing a high-pressure jet of toxic boiling liquid out of its rectum. 


Whos up for some water sports?

Who's up for some water sports?

No laughing yet, you haven’t seen the money shot: if the Bombardier Beetle gets really, really angry, it squirts so much toxic liquid out of it brown eye that it blows its own arse off. Now imagine how much my son, an eight-year-old boy whose idea of highbrow comedy is farting on a leather sofa, loves the Bombardier Beetle.

Personally, I long to hear what other insects can fire out of their arses or whether they can blow off their thorax with a particularly loud belch. But we have settled on the Bombardier Beetle, and I fear we may never turn the page – I should be so lucky as to read the adventures of a gay penguin.

My daughter, thankfully, would rather die than listen to me reading after suffering years of my attempts to emote my way through the latest Spot the Dog potboiler or yet another identically-plotted Rainbow Fairy “adventure”.

Now she disappears into her bedroom with a Harry Potter book which, judging by the slow progress of the bookmark, is less to do with her thirst for literature and more to do with a large bag of sweets she has hidden under her bed (more on H Potter another time. I have much to say about that magical little shitfish). 

Personally, I say bring on any books whatsoever which might capture the attention of children, whether they be about gay princes, co-parenting same-sex penguins or transexual elephants who’ve lost a balloon. Anything bar Scooby effing Doo or the Bombardier Beetle. Even if they start co-parenting together.

**** What can I say? Work has been insane. Apologies for my sporadic posting – I will try and be slightly more productive. Blame my son – that bastard beetle eats up precious time when I could be writing for you and he’s only eight, so most of you (Ram not withstanding) could take him in a fight ****


22 Responses to “My children love me reading aloud to them. Selfish little sods.”

  1. June 5, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Welcome back 🙂

    “And Tango Makes Three” sounds pretty cool, but I’m more intrigued by the transexual elephant and how you could tell which gender it is presenting as. Or did you just make him/her up?

  2. June 5, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    To get children interested you’ve go to start banning and confiscating books. Children want to read stuff they’re not allowed to read.

  3. June 5, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Pandora, the elephant was a figment of my imagination, albeit one I may now write a book about seeing as I have piqued your interest. You’d buy it, right? Right?

    GB – we just came together, as it were. As you commented here, I commented over at the Japing Ape. Much more of this, and people will start talking.

  4. 4 brucehood
    June 5, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Oh don’t get me on Harry Potter! What kind of mad delusional world do we live in where adults read this tripe. No wonder they printed a version in suitably disguised adult covers. I would prefer to leaf through a porn magazine in public than be seen to be reading this tosh.
    Oh and if you ever do stumble on this comment JK I am happy to back up my venom with an avalanche of evidence of your bad writing.
    “It helps to increase literacy,” I hear them say.. Bollocks to that.

  5. June 5, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    I didn’t know many kids in HS who liked reading. I enjoy reading now more than I ever did in school. Maybe b/c I could give a rats arse about The Handmaids Tale or a Tale of Two Cities….it definitely was the worst of times.

  6. June 5, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    Oh Bruce, I do love you.
    I have an entire rant in the wings about those effing adult covers for HP. Over-rated Lord of the Rings for halfwits.

    Bearman, Dickens is a c**t. I wish I could sugar coat it, but I can’t.

  7. June 5, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    For God’s sake don’t let your son find out about the bean weevil’s habits…….

  8. 9 Ram Venkatararam
    June 6, 2009 at 2:31 am

    I am confident that I could hold my own in a fight against your son (provided he adheres to marquess of queensbury rules etc etc.,)

    Regardless, I’m sure it would never come to that as we share the same literary tastes! I recently acquired the Scooby-Doo Reader Megapack. A classic collection with Scooby and gang up to their usual hilarious hijinks in a variety of spooky settings!!!! (22 books! All perfect for what we now call “reluctant readers” and used to call “lazy illiterate bastards”).

    Good to have you back WIB.


  9. June 6, 2009 at 4:15 am

    It saddens me that The Scooby Doo Storybook Collection gets kicked around. I applaud any work of literature that can introduce a character named “Dr. Bikini” and do it tastefully and ironically – and with pictures.

    I think the Scooby Doo nuances are too subtle. They get lost on everyone. And yet ironically, isn’t that what nuances usually do? Nuances: They’re such elusive bastards.

  10. 11 justsomebloke
    June 6, 2009 at 10:16 am

    I’ve always read (mostly bedtime) stories to my boys since they were in nappies, but now that they’re in school the tables have turned and I’ve had to get them to read out aloud to me.
    I was slightly taken aback by the lil ‘un giving me a comforting hug and assuring me that he’s happy to read childrens stories to me now that I’m a senile geriatric.

    On the train, I’ve found that shielding the copy of HP with a glossy edition of ‘Fat Asian Nude Housewives’ or other reputable smut rags, has spared me the potential embarrassment of being spotted reading such tosh.

    oh…Dicken WAS a c**t – he’s been worm food for quite some time now.

  11. June 6, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    I agree with Bruce on the whole Hairy Twatter thing. Grown adults (well, is there any other type?) sitting on the bus/train/tricycles reading about a magical boy and his wand?!


    Stick with the beetle with the weird habits, WiB.
    Who knows – maybe it could come in useful in your sons later life.
    Unless he turns out to be a wizard.
    Then you can blame harry potter.

  12. June 6, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    I truly love that word “arse”. No matter what context it is used, an air of dignity and refinement is emitted. 🙂

  13. June 6, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Lymm Grammar School did more to put me off reading than they could ever know.

    A soild (that should have been ‘solid’, but the typo seemed more relevant) diet of Dickens, Shakespeare and Hardy… urghhh (shudders at the memory).

    My literary interests were rekindled when – aged about 18 – I discovered Spike Milligan’s war memoirs.

    Thank you, Spike; you saved me.

  14. June 7, 2009 at 12:02 am

    I read my kids “Fight Club” when they were little and they turned quite literate…go figure.

  15. June 7, 2009 at 5:40 am

    You brits must be way more socially sophisticated than we are, there is no such movement here to introduce homo-friendly materials into OUR public libraries or school systems. The craze here for a while with children who didn’t want to “read” anything was the Captain Underpants series, which is much like your bombardier beetle only with little round people, and of course, the kids loved him. Good luck, you have a challenge on your hands..:)

  16. June 7, 2009 at 8:34 am

    “copies of the book about a little girl living with her father and his gay partner in school libraries.” I am delighted that there is a book about a little girl living with her father and his gay partner in school libraries! It must be quite an adventure as the authorities chase them from library to library, never quite catching up to them as they escape out the fire exit door in the book mending room just ahead of the police. An action/adventure story! I love it! But anyway, that’s not why I called . . .

    I have been known to do a passable imitation of the bombadier after eating Mexican cuisine. Come to think of it, they may be imitating me . . .

  17. June 7, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Oooh! Such fertile commenting ground here. I’ll have to do a list:
    1. I feel as if I’ve finally arrived home. Is it a British thing to abhor Harry Potter? If so, why do I hate it? JK’s writing sucks canal water (as I’ve seen others say). What the hell? Are modern people really that stupid? Wait, don’t answer that.

    2. My albatross book is a Tonka truck book that has no story, but is instead a long series of commands meant to prompt the child to push buttons which make annoying noises. When forced to read it, I make up my own sentence structure. I’ve tried to send it to the thrift store three times. Each time it was “magically” (much like Harry Potter!) retrieved from the black plastic trash bag.

    3. Fight Club might be the best book ever written. Or close, at least. I can imagine it would hold my boys’ interest when they are a teeny bit older.

    4. I am fascinated by insects, so I don’t mind reading about their bizarre habits, even over and over again. I’m a geek, what can I say?

    5. Scooby Doo? Who let that monstrosity into the house? Nevermind, I bet I know. The worst we have here is Dora, and she was a “gift.” And no, we’re not still friends with the giver.

    6. I was a voracious reader as a kid. I wish I knew the trick. Perhaps it was the neglectful parenting style mingled with my highly evolved intelligence. Who can say for certain?

    7. Gryphon’s comment made me imagine something like “From the Mixed-up Files of Mr. and Mr. Basil E. Frankweiler”, which is a wonderful book. And what about Madeleine L’Engle’s books? They’re fabulous! Hardy can suck it, as far as I’m concerned. My English teacher had us read “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.” Now that was truly inspirational, and had lesbians to boot. Can’t beat that with a stick. 😉

  18. June 7, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    My boys loved the “Frog and Toad” series….until they discovered Saturday morning cartoons. Then it had to be the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” books (and I use that term loosely) with buttons which, when pushed, played sounds of swords swooshing, and “Hai!” “Pow!”. sigh.

    How I miss Rocky and Bullwinkle.

  19. June 8, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Do you have “Penthouse Forum” in England? If so, read a verse or two of that to the young ones. They will never go back to Scooby Doo again…I promise.

  20. June 9, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    I dont ever remember reading any books growing up and now I cant get enough of them. Although the pretty pictures do them to distract me at times.

    I think kids will get to that age when they will want to read more especially when a movie of the book gets made!

  21. June 10, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Did you disappear again…and I even made you a gift on my site.

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