Looking back over my career one of my main aims has always been to engender a love for reading. Nothing is more powerful in Education than witnessing a child reading a book for the very first time.
As a teacher I have made books the heartbeat of every theme. It was central to the timetable. The book became the highlight, bringing a book alive was always a thrill. It is undoubtedly the strongest tool in our box for developing literacy. Many books were excellent for many different reasons. One book that might not be well known outside of Wales is ‘Griffin’s Castle’ written by Jenny Nimmo. It describes the stone animals carved on the walls of Cardiff Castle coming alive. It was brilliant for many different reasons but primarily for the opportunities to develop creative writing in a number of genres.
‘James and the Giant Peach’ by Roald Dahl, was another book that managed to grasp the attention of the reader but also introduced the children to minibeasts, fruits, gravity, floating, flying etc. The Scientific opportunities in one book were incredible.
To return to the Welsh connection, I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘The Snow Spider’ again by Jenny Nimmo. In Wales, our language is very much reliant on stories that have been shared from generation to generation. The World is aware of the Greek myths and legends yet in Wales we have some of the greatest legends ever written and would be perfect for a blockbuster film. ‘The Snow Spider’ allows you to enter the world of the Mabinogion. It is a collection of stories that has magic, romance, bravery, adventure and action. Quite simply the stories are fantastic!
One of my favourite books to encourage an interest in History at a young age is ‘Peepo’ by Shirley Hughes. I adore the design. As the title suggests you are peeping into an unknown world. Through a circle cut into the book each turn of a page acts as a window into the past. History of the home front during World War 2 comes alive. There are not many books that have managed to make the cover and title central to the story in the same manner as ‘Peepo’.
The classics are always a source of inspiration and perhaps they can be too easily forgotten in the modern world. My favourite classic would always be ‘Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens. This was and is such as wonderful introduction to the social history of children during the Victorian Age. We all know and love the story. Every class that I taught knew that I would enact the story of ‘A Christmas Carol’ before the break for the Holiday. One of my favourite extracts from the story is when Ebenezer Scrooge is left alone to read a book in his boarding school. The class discussion would often circulate around the subject of how lonely was Scrooge? Does reading a book make you feel less lonely? Why?
Authors are key to this process and I have introduced a number of authors over the years to pupils. Recently I had the privilege and honour of listening to Malorie Blackman with my Year 6 pupils. I took many ideas from her talk but central to her discussion was the fact that she loved reading. Her local public library provided her with access into a world of fantasy, adventure and legends. I apologise if my qoute isn’t a hundred percent accurate. Malorie Blackman said,
“I wouldn’t be sat here now if it wasn’t for public libraries.”
For those that do not have the opportunity to access the world of books due to the expense then libraries become an imperative part of your life. Perhaps my favourite quote was,
“If you don’t like reading you haven’t found the right book!”
Well I can honestly say that ‘Noughts and Crosses’ was the right book for my son. Without her words and inspiration he might not have developed the ambition to write. I thoroughly enjoy listening to authors discussing why they began writing and how they were inspired to write by other authors or books.
When I was a Deputy Head teacher, I took a group of pupils to a book quiz competition and we had the joy of listening to Jaquelin Wilson. She didn’t have a very good experience in School in terms of her writing and what I took from her conversation was the power of encouragement that we have as teachers. Sometimes we can forget that the praise that we give can imprint itself onto a child’s memory and stay with them forever. Conversely our criticism can also have the opposite impact. Sometimes a phrase or statement of encouragement is the key to a pupil’s success.
Gwyn Morgan is a wonderful Welsh author making books full of fun for the reader. My favourite book is ‘Zac yn y Pac’. He has a talent of making an ordinary situation comical and his books certainly contain laugh out loud moments. If you think of Horrid Henry and Dirty Bertie, Gwyn Morgan writes in a similar genre however he was writing in this manner many years before the others. He still has the ability to hold an audience when speaking with children. His books have often been key in gaining boys interests in books.
One of the most common questions that I had on parents evening was,
“My son doesn’t like reading what can I do?”
Well the conversation would often turn on its head when you start to discuss different reading materials. I love books but for some pupils they might prefer to read articles from the web or magazines. They might prefer to read a newspaper or a factual book. The fact that children would read was the main impetus of the discussion rather than focussing on the negatives e.g. they don’t like books.
My favourite online quote comes from a blog I discovered about reading,
I have found that e-books on sites similar to Oxford Owl have a positive impact on pupils reactions to books. Many pupils are familiar with reading from a screen rather than paper. Rapid Readers and Bugs Club are two schemes that we use in School and they are both extremely effective in supporting pupils reading.
Ultimately what I have learnt as a Teacher is that if a child has a love of reading then this has a positive aspect on all areas of life at school. Their well being improves and their standards in writing also moves in the right direction.
Reading breeds success,
Even if my handwriting is a mess.
New friends in myths and legends,
Every new character a new present.
Books are a key,
Information for you and me!
Books are an adventure,
A permanent debenture!
Stories of Ogres and magic
Without which life would be tragic!
Let your imagination thrive
With stories that bring the world alive!
Did I say that I also enjoy poetry?