Saturday, 1 December 2012

I Read the News Today; Oh Boy.....

Not currently part of the
Key Stage 1 curriculum
(c) Private Eye
In the week that Lord Leveson released his report on press regulation and the media is awash with comment and opinion on a Free Press; our daughter has become a Free Reader.

To be a 'Free Reader' is a much coveted title at school; it means that you no longer have to follow a colour-coded reading book programme but can instead select any book that you like from the school library.  We are justly proud of our daughter, and delighted with her teachers.

Her confidence increased, she has taken to reading anything that she can see, whether it's intended for her or not.  As a result, she has given us cause to reconsider where we leave our reading material more than once this week. 

It began with her asking us who the man on the front of Private Eye was, then reading aloud the contents of his speech bubble.  She was disappointed to discover that the 'cover star' Lord Leveson is not related to Father Christmas because his outfit 'looks almost the same'.  It's a fair point but as interested as she was, we're not entirely sure she's ready for political critique and satire and so we've put it out of her reach.

(c) Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty
This was followed by our son pointing out that there was a picture in the paper of 'Mary and Joseph'.  It was, in fact, an image of three Afghanistani women.  Taken on its own, it is a funny and understandable mistake for a child to make but for the fact that the accompanying story was about the murder of a young girl for refusing an arranged marriage.  Our daughter wanted to read the story.  Another paper gets put out of the way.

So we have agreed to make sure that we put anything that's not for little eyes out of sight and we think that we're doing ok.  And then I go to a shop in a nearby village where there is apparently great demand for 'adult' magazines.  I don't know what the legislation is on front covers at this point in time but apparently as long as there are stars over a woman's nipples then it is fine for it to be in plain view; even if she is attempting to lick the star off or is pointing at another part of her constellation-covered anatomy.  

As a child, The Sun was the favoured daily paper of my parents so rarely a day passed where I didn't see which 'lovely' had her baps out for the delectation of the British public.  There was also always a stash of 'dirty magazines' left in the local woods (with the internet not yet invented people took to the wilds with nothing but a magazine, a hanky and a furtive look) so I did not grow up unaware of quite how fascinating the female form is to so many, but I don't want it for my children.  You could argue that the magazines are out of their line of sight but that is to assume that they never look up or around them and that is also to assume that they cannot read.  For whilst the woman's breasts came with the requisite stars, her bottom half was concealed by the legend: "Footy Fanny!"  There is a part of me that wants to guffaw at its absolute shabbiness but as a mother I am appalled that a shop in the middle of a housing estate, and next to a nursery, is putting magazines like this just one display away from CBeebies magazine.  Thankfully our daughter didn't get the opportunity to look in that direction, she was too busy being led away with me muttering something about "they've run out of sweets"....

I remember hearing a woman who had not learned to read until adulthood say during an interview that it had been like someone turning up the volume on the world.  Whilst up until that point she had plenty of spoken conversation; the wording on signs, in papers, on the sides of vans, cars and buses, and the back of tins and packets had always been silent to her.  After learning to read she felt they were shouting out to grab her attention, crowding her brain with messages and urging her to read more.  This is how it is now for our little free reader, and it's our responsibility to make sure as far as possible, it's only the good stuff that gets heard. 

Soundtrack:  A Day in the Life - Neil Young, Live at Glastonbury 2009.  Makes my hair stand on end this one.

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