If you’re struggling to keep your eyes open in the evening long enough to read a few pages of a novel, then you need to follow Word Child on Instagram.
Triin Vihur’s bookstagram account pairs beautifully shot images of books with reviews and literary quotes. Mum to two-year-old Sigrid, she’s a huge advocate of snuggling up with your little ones and making reading fun. It’s enough to make you keep the bedside light on for a few more minutes and finish the chapter…
Words: Katherine Chatfield
You grew up in Estonia. Why did you move to the UK?
I always wanted to go to London or New York. I grew up reading British Vogue. The girls looked similar to me, with brown hair and eyes. In Estonia I felt different – I wasn’t blonde and blue-eyed like the other girls. I always felt the Brits were my people! In 2005 I got a job in a casino in Mayfair, and moved here with no other plans than to enjoy living in a big city. I met Sigrid’s dad David who is from Lewes in Sussex and when she was born in early 2017, we moved here. We’d viewed an old house that hadn’t had any work done on it for 50 years. I fell in love with the light, which is perfect for taking photos. Two years and a total refurbishment later, here we are.
Have you always been a voracious reader?
I’ve loved reading since I was four years old. I loved Master Detective: A Kalle Blomkvist Mysteryby Astrid Lindgren. At about aged 10 I loved the Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I read my mum’s Agatha Christie collection and her collection of artist’s biographies. I always had top marks in literature at school but I never studied it even though I loved books. I always thought I’d be a lawyer.
How did Word Child begin?
I studied digital media arts at university in London and graduated in 2011. I loved photography and was always uploading shots on Flickr. I only uploaded shots on Instagram because I thought nobody on Flickr would like them. I noticed another account, an Australian @swellvalleybloodpulse, talking about books was very popular – but she was an academic not a photographer. I thought, ‘I can put up nice photos about the books I’ve read.’ So I started one day in 2014 and never stopped…
Did you expect it to become such a success?
In the beginning I just did it because I enjoyed it. I just posted about the classics that I’d read and the books that had influenced me. But in August last year, I started taking it more seriously. Now I treat it as a job and post every day which means it’s changed a lot. I’ve got more followers and I’m getting some advertising too. It’s very time consuming but I’m really enjoying it.
Is it possible for you to choose a favourite book?
I love the classics. When I first started Word Child I talked a lot about reading The Idiot by Dostoevsky. It helped me grow up – I think my character changed because of reading it. It made me more open and sensitive to the world, more sincere. People initially followed me because I talked about the classics, but as I got more followers it changed; publishers started sending me books and now I hardly read much more contemporary stuff. There’s so much information out there now, and I can see what other people are reading too which is very tempting – I can’t say no to a new, interesting book!
How has motherhood changed your reading habits?
I read much less now! I read four or five books a month – it used to be eight. When Sigrid was a baby I could read while she was feeding, but now it’s only when she naps that I get to sit down. I try and read 20 pages of a book as soon as she has her sleep, but also I have to fit in taking photos in that time too, so it’s a constant juggle.
What has motherhood taught you?
To trust my instincts. We are older parents – I was 40 and David was 53 when Sigrid was born, so I felt really ready to devote our time to her. I’ve had so much advice from other people but I’ve learnt to do things my way; I never wanted to let her cry in her own room; if she cries I go to her. She’s always been a really smiley baby. Leaving her at nursery has been a big question for me. I did a lot of research about it and enjoyed reading How Not to F*** Them Up by Oliver James, and Raising Babies; Should Under 3s Go To Nursery by Steve Biddulph. I tried taking her when she was eight months old but she cried so much I couldn’t leave her. When she was 15 months I tried again and she enjoyed it then. It was the right time; it made me feel happier too as I wasn’t just living for her – I had some parts of me back too – which does everyone good.
How do you find raising a child away from your family in Estonia?
It’s hard. But I Skype my mum and share videos online every day, and visit three times a year. I’ve made a conscious effort to speak and read to Sigrid in Estonian, but most of her words are in English. Things are a bit easier now we have some childcare but it’s still very busy trying to keep on top of Word Child and stay organised. To help me get by I don’t cook or clean and do the bare minimum of washing!
What books do you read to Sigrid?
At the moment I’m reading her Postman Bearby Julia Donaldson, A Little Radical by Danica and Jason Russell, and Fantastically Great Women who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst. They’re definitely feminist books, but she likes most things I read to her. I read to her in her when she eats or in the morning. She likes to take the books from me and read them to herself!
How important is to read to children and start their love of reading from a young age?
My parents never read to me but seeing them and my sister enjoy reading made me a voracious reader. The availability of books is really important too.
Which books have helped you through your first years of parenthood?
When Sigrid was born I only read Google! I had so many questions and no time to read lengthy books. When I was ready to start reading again I became interested in ‘mother books’ but I’ve been disappointed that so many are negative accounts of motherhood. I do recommend every mother reads The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, which has a very powerful poem about children in it. Before Sigrid was born I read The Outsider by Albert Camus and Therese by François Mauriac, where a woman poisons her husband then leaves her daughter with her husband to go and live and die alone. I know suffering sells but I’d really like to read something positive – or even just normal – about being a parent. Recommendations, please!
What are your favourite bookshops to visit?
Wherever we go I seek out the bookshops and libraries. I recently visited The New York Public Library which was as beautiful as I’d imagined. When we were there I also discovered Housing Works Bookstore in Soho which sells second hand books for charity. In London, John Sandoe books is brilliant and of course, my local bookshop Bow Windows in Lewes, where I bought my first edition of A Word Child by Iris Murdoch.
What the three books should every woman should read?
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Woolf. This book changed me. It made me realise that dieting – which I did a lot as a teenager – is designed to keep control of women and make us weak. Suddenly, I totally understood that we have to create our own energy. 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez. This is about seven generations of a family and their destinies. It made me look at life in a different way and brought magic into my life. Sinuhe the Egyptian by Mika Waltari. This is a beautifully written historical novel that’s a bit like poetry. Reading it is almost like a meditation – I’d recommend it to anyone feeling a bit down or tired of life.