27 Jul Why Reading? My Story.
This bookshelf is me on so many levels. It’s all over the place and messy but there is so much joy right in there, you just have to start reading. For this first blog post I thought I would open up some of the books that make up my metaphorical book case and give you a glimpse of what makes me tick and why I am here. Firstly, I am a reader, you have probably already worked that out, and I love digging into a good book. I have found joy in books since I was very young and my wish for as long as I can remember was to own a second had bookshop. With this blog, I want to do for you what I will do for the customers of the bookshop that is waiting for me just around the corner: Impart some of the things I have learnt along the way and learn from you in return.
Bye Bye Baby
While I find it hard to believe now I haven’t always been an avid reader. In fact 30 years ago, while at primary school, I was really struggling to read anything at all. My parents, teachers themselves, were stumped with how to help me progress. They spoke to my school and came up with a range of strategies but they really began to worry that I just wouldn’t get it. One book week Allan Ahlberg came to my school and read his new book Bye Bye Baby. Looking at the book now I honestly couldn’t tell you what I was so enthralled by but I was totally captivated by that story. I was hooked and I absolutely had to have that book! During book week there was a book sale at the school and Bye Bye Baby had pride of place. I snuck my pot of pennies into school in my PE kit and counted them out one at a time, much to the delight of the waiting teacher, but I didn’t have enough. I was devastated but eventually I put it out of my mind. Later on in the year it was my sister’s birthday and I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was also a present for me! I tore it open and there was Bye Bye Baby! Joy! I immediately sat down next to my baby sister and read it to her from cover to cover! My parents stood and watched in amazement. I have not stopped reading since!
Now something that I want to get out of the way early on is this: I love phonics! That’s right I absolutely adore phonics! I know that sounds incredibly strange but I am afraid it is totally true. It’s not something that I was really aware of myself until recently when I discovered my self getting over excited about the resource for teaching split vowel digraphs shown below.
Now in my opinion phonics generally receives a bad press. It is often mentioned in the same breath as pseudowords, words made up to allow children to demonstrate the ability to segment and blend without needing to recognise the whole word, which are generally looked down on. However, from being very dubious when I approached phonics early on I now realise that it is a set of rules that guide the most common building blocks of our language. Once you get to grips with that they can be an incredibly powerful to tool to allow children to unlock language. I have seen children totally confused with words suddenly find a sound that they recognised and use it to decode and read whole words. Like any tool though it should used correctly and as one strategy in a teacher toolkit rather than as the only one.
Now this is my story bag. This bag has the ability to stop a class dead in its tracks. It gives me so much joy to carry it in to a classroom and watch the expectant eyes begin to stare at it begin to wonder what is inside. I find that a practical and active approach to telling an experiencing stories adds so much value to learning to read but is also just genuinely good fun. My mum made this bag for me and it goes with me into every class that I teach in. I recently used it on our school transition day as an All About Me bag and stuffed it full of clues about my life and interests.
One of the stories that I tell during this activity is when, as a fourteen year old, I mentioned to my Granny that I really wanted to work in a bookshop. Five minutes later I was being dropped outside of a local, an utterly excellent, secondhand bookshop with the instruction of ‘go and get a job then’. I really loved this place, it had corridors of old books that you could disappear in. I asked to see the owner and said (I promise that these were my exact words) “I really love books, please can I have a job?” Unfortunately the answer was ‘no vacancies’ but it was ok because I left with two Biggles books and one of James Herriot’s vet series.
I’m going to leave it there for now. Hopefully I’ve given you a fairly meandering look at who I am and why I’m here. Stick around and get to know me. While your here feel free to leave a comment or send me a question or two.