About a year ago, I put away my Kindle.
I’m a huge reader and have always enjoyed books. Real books. I like the weight of them, the smell of them, the thickness of some. I also like to have books around the house.
So when I received a Kindle for my birthday many years ago, I was in two minds. On the one hand, how practical - I could carry as many books as I wanted in one light, compact device. On holiday, on the train.
On the other hand, did I want something compact and light? Where was the weight of the novels I had enjoyed? Where was the smell of a secondhand book chosen from a book sale in an old church hall?
And what about when it was finished? Could I add it to the other read and enjoyed books on a shelf or window ledge? No.
But I must move with the times, I thought, soon book shops won’t even be a thing. The supermarkets were already taking over the market as well as online distributors. So why not go with it? And so I did, for around 30 books, over a few years.
I’d watch people on trains or buses with theirs, with their heads bowed over their screens, thinking I wonder what they are reading? Perhaps they wondered this about me.
Then my youngest came along.
And grew beyond an unknowing baby with no understanding, into a small person with an inquisitive nature, looking around her, taking everything in.
Looking at people all around her staring at their screens.
Looking at me staring at mine.
And that’s when I archived my Kindle.
You see, I don’t want her to see Mummy staring at a screen. I want her to see Mummy reading a book, but how will she ever know that Mummy is reading a book without seeing the actual book?
I make sure to surround her with books: visits to the library, the excitement of scanning in the old books that we have read a dozen times each and choosing new ones. Dashing home to start reading them straight away.
The last stories of the evening before bed, the first books of the morning over breakfast. Stories in the garden, whilst in the bath, stories she tells to me by remembering the words or by making up her own words. Stories I make up for her when there are no books to hand.
And suddenly there I am reading my books from a screen; no different from the FaceBookers, the texters, the work emailers, the gamers. Don't get me wrong - I am most of these myself, but I try very hard not to be in front of her.
My wish is for her to adore reading. Not just to like it or love it, but to adore it.
I’m not wishing time away but how excited will I be when she reads her first actual words? A sentence? A page? When she is reading me a story? When we are sitting side by side – her with her book and me with mine, reading together in silence?
I want picking up a book to be her natural response. Time on her hands? Read. Nothing to do? Read. Finished a book? Pick up another and start.
When she comes back from school, as well as the usual questions about her day, I’ll be asking: “What have you read today? Tell me about it.”
When she is old enough I’ll ask her for recommendations, like I do with my own dad. Sharing books we have enjoyed, borrowing them from each other.
“What did you think of the ending? The twist?” One of the most frequently asked questions my dad asks on the phone is “What are you reading?”
And actually I was wrong. Book shops are still a thing. They are even enjoying a revival.
My sister refuses to go anywhere but Waterstones, spending hours sitting on the sofas, browsing and reading snippets from several books before making her choice and carrying them home like a kid with a bag of sweets.
I doubt it’s about to close any time soon. ‘Book swaps’ now reside in the coolest cafes, bars and lounges. Retro is cool. Vintage is cool. Real books are cool.
So my Kindle will stay where it is.
I’m not ungrateful for my birthday gift. It’s just not needed anymore.