Book burning is a heinous crime in our house. As is book vandalism, book tearing, page ripping, book shredding or book re-cycling. Dog-earing pages, marginalia and sticky notes are acceptable. Creasing spines isn’t something supermum seems to pay attention to but gets filthy looks from me. Which supermum ignores.
The context is little elf who’s developing a bad habit of attacking anything related to a momentary instance of frustration or displeasure. This morning, it was the turn of a Thomas book she wanted to someone to her read now. Now. I didn’t wake up fast enough. A few moments later, I heard the sound of paper tearing from below eye-level at the bottom of our bed. Little elf (who’s three, by the way) was sitting there systematically removing each page with the kind of sullen precision an American Bible-belt schismatic Methodist would have been proud of.
“Naughty! You NEVER hurt books!”
I scooped her up, wailing and suddenly aware she was disapproved of, and dumped her firmly on the Thinking Step. I managed to leave her there for about two minutes before I went back and picked her up feeling like an atrocious bully.
“Are you sorry for hurting the book?”
Little arms flung around my neck. Disintegration of discipline effort. I don’t know what she took in but hopefully her books will be safe for a little while.
Could I have handled it better? Almost certainly. But I’d react the same way to biting and when you attack a book, you’re attacking a living embodiment (living in the sense of all the constructions and sense-makings we read onto, over and into books) of learning and I want my children to grow up knowing that learning is to be accumulated, interrogated, rejected even, but never destroyed or treated with disrespect. Unless…well, the ‘unless’ and all the other caveats can come when she’s a bit older. Meanwhile don’t hurt books.
I know, it’s a lot for a three year old to take on board, let alone a Thomas the Tank Engine Ladybird book. But there you go.