Redster: Five and a half
Cutester: Two

The Redster is slowly, mysteriously, becoming literate. It all somehow started when she began going to school. I don’t know how it works – she comes home with reading books and she sits there and reads them to me, based, as far as I can tell, on remembering how the teacher read it, the pictures, the context, and maybe a smattering of phonics. Before school if I tried to get her to read something I’d insist she sound everything out phonically and it always ended in tears. Then the parents were called in for a talk which explained that you let them cheat in the ways described, and it just works.

The best bit is that the Redster also thinks that she can write. I came across her ballet shoes yesterday carefully labelled with biro, ‘Left’ and ‘Rit’. She started leaving us notes as early as last term which were kind of decipherable and ended with ‘bubi’ (bye-bye). I have a beautiful drawing of what Babyfather insists is a praying mantis, inscribed with ‘Crocadiyol.’ I was seriously impressed. It’s strange watching this new consciousness emerge, a bit like watching her learn to talk all over again.

It’s all new and wonderful – but slightly marred by a horrible competitive urge that reared its ugly head from nowhere – not hers but mine. The Redster, being one of the oldest, was put in the top reading group in her class and quickly promoted to Level Two reading books. After a meeting with her teacher that left me glowing, I just assumed she was top of the class for reading, until – until – another child in her reading group mentioned in the playground before school one day that he was in Level Three. Level Three! My stomach hit the floor – and then I was horrified by my own reaction, but was unable to stop myself rifling through her book bag every Tuesday and Friday (reading days) to see if she was up a level yet or not. After three weeks of this I finally wrote a light-hearted message in her reading notebook ‘Read with no mistakes – surely ready for the next level?!’ which had the desired effect, but next I heard, the same child was on Level Five. So I give up.