Reading for me is a funny thing; I never engaged with it at school, I struggled to make the words on the page fit with what was in my own brain, or perhaps what I wanted them to say!
Either way, when I was first informed in Year 3 or 4 I needed to read ‘The Rainbow Fish’ by Marcus Pfister I was very excited, it had colour and light and a storyline about a confident fish who wanted friends, but it took me so long to read it with my mum as I was getting frustrated with my constant stumbling!!
‘The little blue fish darted through the water with a glittering scale. Soon the Rainbow Fish was surrounded by others of all different shapes and sizes. All of them wanted the glittering, shimmering scales!’
I do remember reading ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ by Maurice Sendak, a book of only 368 words, but with an atmosphere of havoc and mystery! It was the images, the illustrations that really engaged me and encouraged me to read more and more. I still struggled, through the ‘Silver Sword’ by Ian Serrailier, ‘The Machine Gunners’ by Robert Westhall, with about the influence of WW2 on youngsters; and then came Roald Dahl…….
- The Twits
- James and the Giant Peach
- Danny Champion of the World
- Fantastic Mr Fox
Being able enjoy such stories, imagery, metaphors and other such literary techniques made me feel special, like I was privvy to what was in the authors thoughts as they were writing. ‘The Wasp Factory’ by Iain Banks was one book that shocked me slightly as it was dark and had a dystopian theme to it, exposing me to something extremely different to the usual hero-like endings that Dahl wrote for me.
Time progressed and my schooling clarified how important reading would prove to be in my future endeavours with books and adventures like ‘The Go-Between’ by L.P. Hartley, ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ by John Le Carre, and just any Sherlock Holmes story I could lay my hands on, allowing for a degree of escapism and essential day-dreaming. I still struggled, letters moved around and words still confused me, but my lexicon developed and I was able to start applying language into my own contexts, my life, surely one of the major reasons we do encourage reading to such a high and rigorous degree.
I tried the Potters,
The Final Frontier,
and the use of magic in the Napoleonic Wars with Mr Strange and Norrell
and vanished within them identifying with those characters who were not always following the correct path, but would always find a way of making a positive impact in the end, (the ‘rebel without a cause/clue streak in my younger self!). But now I find myself encountering a whole new library of knowledge, with my go to books those that will develop my profession, books on pedagogy, practice, how to lead learning and so on. What comforts me, (as well as my infrequent dabbles back into fiction, ‘The Rivers of London’ by Ben Aaronovitch and the somewhat trashy crime thriller by Rowling’s nom de plume Robert Galbraith) is that the effort, resilience and barriers overcome with the Rainbow Fish as my guide have enabled me to still enjoy but most importantly learn through my book shelf.
Oh, and I think I will dress as Johnathan Strange on World Book Day as we should never underestimate the power of the written word as even a grumpy 33 year old assistant head will still want to dress up and play along if he’s engaged by the words…..!