I started reading His Dark Materials to my two children tonight. Currently, Lyra is ensconced in a cupboard having been hastily ordered to return there by her uncle, Lord Asriel.
My youngest daughter, as I read, asked me several questions:
“What is a daemon?”
(“Kind of like an animal that can talk, but it has a much stronger connection to its owner. It’s a part of its owner, like a conscience.”)
“Is Lyra a boy or a girl?”
(“She’s a girl.”)
“Are her mummy and daddy alive?”
(“Let’s read on and find out.”)
When I reached the middle of the first chapter, I shut the cover of the Kindle and gave them both a kiss goodnight. “Is that it?” said my youngest.
“No, there’s more, but I’ll read it to you tomorrow night, when you’re older.”
Just before leaving their bedroom, I turned and asked, “Did you enjoy it?”
My daughter looked at me thoughtfully and said, “Yes, I did.”
And so I left her dreaming of spires, mahogany doors, smoke-filled refectories and glistening decanters of burgundy wine. In return, she leaves me full of hope, a sated conscience; feeling every inch a father.
Reading to someone is an act of love. It’s perfect. It’s like a bicycle, a smile, ripe fruit in a tree – it gives nothing but joy to the world. The cost of reading is time, but the time spent reading is priceless. To know, as a parent, that I did this one thing: I read to my children. Whilst it isn’t everything, it is enough.
And enough is all anyone ever really needs.