To be honest, the title of this post is a little misleading. It refers to my dear grandfather, whom we all called Pop. He died last Wednesday aged 102. Whilst he didn’t spend a century reading, he must have spent the best part of one hundred years with a book of some sort in his hand.
Reflecting on Pop’s magnificent life, one significant aspect that dominates all memories of him was his love of books. He spent much of his life reading. In an age with few screens, he learned by the printed page and he loved the written word.
Whilst he left school at 14, Pop was one of the most well-educated men I’ve ever known. Everything he learned was self-taught through reading and books. He even completed his engineering qualifications by correspondence, back in the days when correspondence was through the post and not online.
My memories of Pop nearly always involve him with some sort of reading material: books, newspapers, journals and his bible. Not only was he well-read, he was widely read. He could quote poetry by Robert Burns, sonnets by Shakespeare and passages from his well-thumbed bible. If there is such a thing as a reading gene, I am sure he passed it on to my mother who obligingly sent it down the genetic path to me.
This makes me consider my Reading Rules and whether they apply to my family history: Pop certainly created the right environment for his children and grandchildren to become readers. Clearly he was the epitome of a reading role model. He did read aloud – passages he found illuminating or entertaining. He would also recite passsages from his favourite works. Although he lived the majority of his life before ebooks became a reality, he certainly did re-define book insofar as he read anything: the Sunday comics, magazines, newsletters and catalogues. As for not being a literary snob, he found Dagwood and Blondie hilarious, which also meant he didn’t have to loosen his filter too much – Pop loved a bit of toilet humour and could recite a colourful limerick with the best of them. If it was written, he would read it and encourage us to read it as well.
Rule Seven is a bit tricky: remember it’s the 21st century. Pop was someone who moved with the times, and in his day was quick to learn and adopt new inventions. However, he was well into his 80’s by the time the Internet hit our shores, and then well into his 90’s before Facebook and social media became part of our everyday vocabulary. But Rule Eight is a winner, as Pop was quick to ask an expert about anything and everything – he learned by asking and listening and received some very expert advice on reading matter in his time. He made reading routine – it was a part of his daily existence and quite simply defined who he was. And Pop never, ever gave up on anything.
For the best part of a century my dear grandfather demonstrated the Reading Rules to his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, simply by loving and sharing his passion for the written word.
Goodbye dearest Pop. You will be missed, but your reading legacy lives on in us all.
For a more thorough explanation of the Reading Rules, head over to that page here