BY KATE HUNTER
Sometimes I get my 11-year-old son to listen to his little sister’s reading homework. Actually, I do it most nights.
Although I’m a children’s author, I have little patience with children learning to read. It’s just the way I am. When I was five and learning to read myself, it drove me nuts if the kid I was sharing a reader with was slower than me. ‘It says, See Dick and Jane run,’ I’d huff, ‘Can we please turn the page now?’
I absolutely realise the value of reading with children, but I don’t think it needs to be me – as long as someone does it. Bonus if it’s a relative.
Ben is a bookish kid, and part of his homework is to read with a member of his family. That might as well be his little sister, right? Apparently not.
Last week, another mum at my kids’ school was semi-complaining about all the ‘homework’ our little ones get. I laughed and told her I outsource some of it to my other kids. She was shocked.
‘But you read aloud with Ben when he was small, why should Sally miss out on that time with you? And why should Ben have that responsibility. He’s only eleven!’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘He’s the eldest.’
That was a pretty ordinary response, I know, but I was under fire in a way I hadn’t experienced since I revealed I sometimes drop my kids at the Library while I nip into Coles.
It made me think about how focused today’s parents are on treating all their kids equally. I don’t believe it’s possible, or something worth striving for.
My friend Cathy is one of twelve kids (and has four herself) and says people should parent as if they have a big family – even if they have just the one. It teaches resilience, responsibility and unselfishness.
This approach makes sense to me. I don’t see how it can be bad for a girl to spend an hour doing craft with a younger brother. Or a boy to watch a toddler while their mum shoots off a few emails. It’s better than spending that 30 minutes on the Wii, surely?