Bladder trouble in house of books

16th March 2001 at 00:00
I'M worried about levels of literacy. My daughters' levels show they're really too high which is making it increasingly difficult to gain access to the lavatory, especially just after they've been to the library. Never having had a sister, I always thought that teenage girls spent hours in the bathroom preening but it seems this is not so. From the number of discarded paperbacks stacked on the cistern, it's clear that Sarah and Ginny find porcelain an invaluable aid to page-turning. Why, I don't know. They both have bedrooms but these seem not be conducive to concentration. Within minutes of the girls'return, both bathroom doors lock and no amount of hammering will elicit a response other than "jussa minute" which roughly translates as "only 12 chapters to go".

Not all teenage girls are obsessed with fiction but those who are sink their teeth into books like piranha who've made it to the end of Ramadan. The titles need not be great - on Sarah's favourite cistern I recently found Point Romance along with Mary Shelley's Fankenstein and Cafe Club 2: Leah Discovers Boys: it's the absorption which is remarkable.

If I sit down to read a newspaper article I rarely get to paragraph three before I'm wondering what's on TV. Or indeed whether the bathroom is free yet. Where has my ability to concentrate on the written word gone? This is one of the things we adults forget when measuring literacy. It shouldn't just be a question of how much you can read but how much you want to read. By that criteria, my level has been in rapid decline ever since we had children.

I think it's to do with the press of all-important minutiae on a parent's working day. I regret that loss of absorption which is why I have decided to embark on a campaign to reclaim the lavatory, as a place of serious study. This weekend, I'm going to lock myself in with a good book until I too have learned the mantra "jussa minute". I'd better do it soon because it won't be long before my two graduate from books to boys and then the bathroom really will be impenetrable.

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