‘Reading to My Kids’ by Kevin Carey

When they were little I read
to them at night until my tongue
got tired. They would poke me
when I started to nod off after twenty pages
of Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket.
I read (to them) to get them to love reading
but I was never sure if it was working
or if it was just what I was supposed to do.
But one day, my daughter (fifteen then)
was finishing Of Mice and Men in the car
on our way to basketball.
She was at the end when I heard her say,
No, in a familiar frightened voice
and I knew right away where she was.
“Let’s do it now,” Lennie begged,
“Let’s get that place now.”
“Sure, right now. I gotta. We gotta,”
and she started crying, then I started crying,
and I think I saw Steinbeck
in the back seat nodding his head,
and it felt right to me,
like I’d done something right,
and I thought to myself, Keep going,
read it to me, please, please, I can take it.

‘Reading to My Kids’ by Kevin Carey from ‘Jesus Was a Homeboy’. © Cavan Kerry Press, 2016.

There is a sentimentality in this poem’s reflection, but that’s fine, and especially so as I use it to plug away critically and continually at then Education Secretary Michael Gove’s outrageous personal decision to have American authors banned from examination study at GCSE English Literature, thus depriving the nation’s students from encountering the hitherto popular exam text Of Mice and Men. Sadly, the point about parental intention and influence in Carey’s poem, as purposeful and correct as it is, does not translate into reality on that national scale.

Interestingly, Chief of Ofsted Michael Wilshaw has been making interesting comments of late – critical of Theresa May’s grammar school crusade; stating whilst in favour of Academies he wouldn’t have wanted to see all local education authorities destroyed – but he also claimed to support Michael Gove’s curriculum changes and I do wonder if this includes Gove’s singular ideological butchering of American texts from any exam syllabus? Of course, it’s a shame Wilshaw wasn’t more vocal with his apparently ‘reasonable’ views whilst prominently in office and only voices them now as his imminent retirement approaches.

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