Gertie loves reading. She has whizzed through the Oxford Reading Tree stages with remarkable speed and fluency through her reception year. No bad thing, since I have had more than enough of Biff and Chip and that magic key beginning to glow. But she is certainly a voracious reader, if such a thing can be said of one who has just turned five.
For the last year or so we have been doing a book at bedtime. Daddy does the bedtime story with Gertie and Gilby together whilst I am feeding Eddie. But then, once all the goodnight kisses have been done, I sneak back into Gertie's room and we have a chapter or two of a grown up book. I say 'grown up'; I mean things like Roald Dahl, Anne Fine or The Worst Witch. Roald Dahl is the biggest hit. We have worked our way through The Magic Finger, The Twits, Fantastic Mr Fox, George's Marvellous Medicine and James and the Giant Peach. We are part of the way through Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Gertie's engagement with the story is utterly magical to witness. At this point I should probably give a spoiler alert as I discuss some of the narrative devices in the novel!
We reached the chapters after we have met all the horrible winning children, where Charlie longs to get the final golden ticket. As each Wonka bar was consumed without golden ticket success, she got more upset. Her disappointment on his birthday was palpable. Her confident prediction that Charlie would surely get the golden ticket when he first found the fifty-pence-piece was quickly shattered, then met with disbelief.
The delayed climax of the night of the winning chapter coincided with an evening when Daddy was home late, so we swapped roles: me doing the official bedtime story with the boys as well, then Daddy stepping in for the secret bedtime read. So I missed the actual moment. But I could hear Gertie's shouting, fist-clenching victory salute from downstairs. Her joy when he finally does triumph was unparalleled. She just had to share it with someone!
I was summoned upstairs for some important news with a little wink from Daddy. There was a great solemnity as Gertie called me in, but she couldn't stop the excitement from bubbling in to her little voice as she broke the news to me.
I'll cherish the moment forever: the absolute enchantment of reading. I am delighted she has discovered it so young.