Bedtime story with pre-teen and teenagers…
‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’ by Onjali Q Rauf.
Now, before I start with the review of the book, “The Boy at the Back of the Class”, and how it worked as our teenage bedtime story, I have to admit that I stumbled across it by accident.
As I’ve said before, when I decided to commit to continuing the bedtime story, regardless of how old Amy got, the first hurdle was choosing what to read. I thought I’d be surrounded with ideas and things would just come flooding to me, but what I soon figured out was that the things I read as a child, although brilliant, weren’t necessarily going to grip Amy. The world has changed, and I know reading the classics is incredibly important and rewarding, but I wanted to try and establish this routine with literature that would, at least initially, appeal to her as a kid growing up in this era. We’d also devoured Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five in previous years, so my go-to list was looking incredibly thin!
So, like any self-respecting busy parent, I did what we all do and asked Professor Google. This was great, but the list was exhausting, so I did the next best thing and asked Sir Kindle! Now, I can hear all of you book purists twitching and cringing at the mention of a Kindle, and I know many of you reading this will be advocates of reading real live books, with real live pages and the smell of last year’s coffee and toast crumbs still lingering between the pages, and we do have real live books in our house, but the Kindle not only frequently comes to my rescue in terms of ideas of what to buy, but I can get them instantly, which is a lazy but a vital element to this process for me as I’m ridiculously disorganised and can’t get to a book shop. In fact, I don’t even think there is a book shop in Middlesbrough anymore, which is probably yet another reason why I shouldn’t use my Kindle (bring on yet another layer of parental guilt!).
Anyway, back to the bedtime story…After scouring the suggestions from Professor Google, I couldn’t decide what to choose so I asked Sir Kindle for his recommendations and bought the first suggestion that was under £2.99, and voila, that is how we came to read ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class”.
We got snuggled up in her bed, just like we did when she was tiny, with the old favourite cuddly toys and all electronic devices (apart from the Kindle!) turned off. We were instantly gripped. You couldn’t not be with an opening paragraph like this:
“There used to be an empty chair at the back of my classroom. It wasn’t a special chair. It was just empty because there was no one sitting in it. But then, one day just three weeks after school started, the most exciting thing that could ever happen to anyone, happened to me and my three best friends. And it all began with that chair.”
From the off it was clear that the narrator was a little younger than Amy, which I had a moment of doubt about, but as she had just started secondary school it seemed as though this slight distance was actually a real pleasure. Whilst reading, she would chuckle at the younger kids in the story and segued into retelling me antics of her Primary classroom.
This was also helped by how realistic and relatable the narrator was, although we kept having debates, sometimes pretty heated, about the narrator’s gender (which I won’t disclose here). I could visualise this exact child sat in their classroom and embarking on the adventure that was unfolding. The inclusion of child-like illustrations and maps (a very important map!) added to how well we felt we knew this central voice. At times the illustrations also helped me keep track of the plot, not because I was getting lost, but because I was getting sleepy after work, a pitfall of the bedtime story that I had forgotten about, but one I am determined to get through!
My tiredness and approach to my new-found determination to continue with the bedtime story is something I will need to keep working on. When our children are younger, it doesn’t really matter what we read to them as long as our voices hold a sing song tune; we could be reading the Argos catalogue for all they care. However, pre-teen and teenage bedtime stories need focus and attention. You can’t just skip pages because you’re getting bored of the story (I’m ashamed to say I used to do this from time to time) or nod off for 5 minutes because you’re so comfy and cosy (I used to do this most nights) which is why I decided to take my time. We put far too much pressure on ourselves as parents, so I decided early on that it was pressure enough to commit to the bedtime story each night, so there was going to be no pressure in terms of how long we read for or how long it would take to read each book.
“The Boy at the Back of the Class” took us about three weeks, and it was a pleasure every single night. Please check it out and please let me know what you thought of it.