Neria - chapter 12


12 – Reading a story

When we woke up it was pouring with rain and when we had eaten our breakfast it was still pouring with rain, only harder. Dad said the rain would last all day and we needn't go and see the sheep - he'd do it, because he needed to go and check the heifers himself. "Why don't you have a quiet day in your room and read some stories?" So we went back up to our room.

Neria chose a book with a picture of some dogs on the cover. She looked inside and was obviously disappointed. "Where are the pictures of more dogs? It's all just little black squiggles that don't mean anything."

I told her they were words. "Rubbish" she replied "words are sounds that you say not squiggles you see in a book." So I had to try and explain reading and writing and it's not easy.

I pointed out the letters and explained that each one meant a sound that made part of a word. Like D O G making "dog". I also said that learning to read and write is hard work - you need a teacher and lots of practice. "When a baby learns to walk it also starts to learn to talk. You don't have to teach a baby to walk and talk, it just does it and you can't stop it even if you wanted to. It only learns to read when its older and someone teaches it. I could teach you if you want."

She soon realised that would be a waste of time. "In my World no one can read or write so I wouldn't have anything to read and if I wrote something no one would be able to read it. Reading's a silly idea I think."

I didn't agree "Reading is great, you can have whatever story you want, whenever you want it, even if you are on your own. And you can have stories from thousands of years ago or far distant lands." I picked a book off my shelf and said "I think you'll like this story. It was written more than two thousand years ago in a language called Latin and now it's been turned into French so I can read it." And I started to read her the tale of Romulus and Remus:

Rhea Silvia was the daughter of King Numitor but his nasty brother Amulius chased him out of the country and took over as King.

When Rhea Silvia had twin boys, and some people said their father was the God Mars, Amulius has afraid that the boys would grow up and take back their grandfather Numitor's place as King. So Amulius stole the twins and left them out one cold night on the banks of the river Tiber, where they would freeze and die.

The baby twins were found by a mother wolf and she picked up the twins and took them back to her den to feed them to her cubs. But they weren't eaten, the twins and the cubs cuddled up together and kept each other warm and the mother wolf let the twins, as well as her own cubs, drink her milk and share their food until they were big and strong.

As young men, Romulus and Remus found their Grandfather Numitor and helped him defeat Amulius and become King again.

Then Romulus and Remus, now young princes, wanted to build a new city but they disagreed about the best place to build it, they had a fight and Remus was killed. So Romulus could choose where the city would be built and it was named after him - Rome, the city of Romulus.

Neria's first qustion was "What's a city?" and I had some more explaining to do. Then she said "One bit of your story is like my story but the other way round. I found a wolf cub and my sister let it drink her milk until it was old enough to eat meat. In your story it's two boys who get found by a wolf and drink her milk."

Then she went on "You don't need books to have stories from long, long ago. My Grandma and Grandad told me stories they had been told by their grandparents. I'll tell them to my children and grandchildren one day, You don't need to be able to read, just able to remember, and everyone can do that."

She was right of course and I was quite glad. I'd learnt Neria's language but I would need to learn how to write it down if she could read. I'll learn her stories and how to do all the things that she can do by just listening and watching and talking.

It was lunch time - cheese sandwiches, apples and a drink of water. It was still raining but Neria suggested we go out to the stone barn where Mum & Dad make the cheese and keep the balls of cheese on racks until they are ready to eat. She really wants to learn how to make cheese, she thinks it will be much more useful than writing.

Neria said "I bet it's not raining in my World, let's go and see if I'm right." So we told Mum we wanted a walk in the rain and she said "OK but don't be too long and you'll need a nice warm bath when you get back." So we whistled Moonlight and set off up the hill to change clothes in the cave and see what would happen next in Neria's World.

We left Moonlight guarding the sheep. I didn't need to guess what we would find when we walked out of the cave and into Neria's World. It was exactly the same time as when we had left and Neria's wolf-cub Kumia was playing with the other children and hadn't even noticed we had gone. The adults didn't notice us slinking off and then re-appearing either - they probably just thought we had gone for a wee.

Things to think about

  • Why is reading and writing so important to us but not important at all in Neria's World?
  • What book have you read that was written more than 1000 years ago?
  • Could you explain to Neria how to make cheese?
  • When you read a story, how do you decide whether it is true or just a made-up story?

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Read the other chapters

For Mums and Dads

Chapter 1 - The Hot Springs

Chapter 2 - Cow's Milk and Reindeer Meat

Chapter 3 - A Mammoth Feast?

Chapter 4 - The Mammoth Hunt

Chapter 5 -Milking Cows and Meeting Parents

Chapter 6 -Feeding Babies

Chapter 7 - Electricity - wild and tamed

Chapter 8 - Shopping and Hunting

Chapter 9 - Becoming a Goat and the Beginning of the World

Chapter 10 - A Painted Party

Chapter 11 - A Bath and a Book and a Dog

Chapter 12 - Reading a Story

Chapter 13 - The Salt Man and his Wolves

Chapter 14 - Counting to a Million

Chapter 15 - A Trip to the Seaside

Chapter 16 - Back Home