In the run up to Mother’s Day, the team was challenged to come up with the one thing we are most grateful to our mothers for.
For many of us, it is hard to pick just one thing. Mums are some of our earliest sources of love and security, often the ones meeting our basic needs, and an early influence on our morality and values. I’m grateful to my mum for so many things that it is hard to know where to begin, but if I had to pick just one, I think I would thank my mum for teaching me to read. And not just to read, but to love books; to learn, and love learning.
My mother had me reading almost as soon as I was walking, and some of my earliest memories are of giant handwritten placards, laid out like a ladder on the ground. Mum would set me down at the first “step” and then go to the end of the ladder and sit down with her arms outstretched towards me. At each step, I had to read what was written on the card, “mummy”, “daddy”, “cat”, “ball”, each word a step closer to Mummy’s enthusiastic cuddle. When I’d toddled to the end and fallen into a cuddle, she would sweep me up, shuffle the cards, and we would do it all over again. She made it into such a game that I never tired of those cards.
Of course, eventually the cards got tired and worn, and I graduated from words to stories. Here too, every story was an adventure thanks to Mum. Sitting with me, she would do all the voices. From the wicked witch to the three little pigs, characters leapt from the pages, springing fully into existence with the breath of my beloved mother.
When I could read independently, my mum and dad opened the world to me through the books they too were reading. Deciding what and how much to allow a young child to read is a minefield and I am forever grateful that she chose to let me read widely and be present to answer my questions instead of limiting my access. It couldn’t have been easy explaining why your nine-year-old casually referenced Nostradamus or Dickens in the same breath as Enid Blyton, but she mostly did it with an uncharacteristic hint of pride – “She reads everything”.
It wasn’t just reading though, it was that deep reverence she had for knowledge and learning and a natural intellectual curiosity that few women in her generation were allowed to fully explore and develop, which I think she instilled in me. Reading was just the conduit; if you can read, you can learn, if you can learn, you can grow.
So on this Mother’s Day, though there are a million things I’m grateful to my mum for, I would like to thank her in particular for the incredible gift she gave me by teaching me to read.