I didn’t know about BBAW in time to sign up for interviews, which worked out pretty well because I got to interview my mum instead, who is also a book lover. Mum teaches Year 5 (9-10 year olds), so I wanted to chat to her a bit about childhood reading.
What was the first book you remember loving?
Treacle-Pudding Town by Enid Blyton. I didn’t read it myself, my mum read it to me (many times!) and it brings warm, cosy memories. I can remember sitting on the floor next to her and can still hear her lovely soft voice reading it to me.
Also, I remember being sick in bed when I was about 7. Blue Peter was showing the story of Rikki Tikki Tavi [Rudyard Kipling] in instalments. My dad would watch it every day, and then come upstairs and retell it to me. I remember it happening lots of times, though in reality it was probably only over about a week.
Did you have a favourite book to read to us when we were little?
Dogger!* [Shirley Hughes] You loved it so much that I even made a tape of it to play to you when I wasn’t able to sit down and read it. [Impressively, Mum proceeded to recite much of Dogger from memory].
Childhood literacy is something we both care about a lot. I know you’re always on the look-out for ways to encourage your class to love reading—do you have any favourites?
When I read to my class, I love to read them books that I enjoy myself. If I love the book I’m reading, they pick up on it and they enjoy it too. I’ve also noticed that the children I teach now love sharing books—so when we do silent reading, it’s anything but! They love to have two or three of them reading the same book together and talking about it.
They also love poetry, especially performing poetry. They tend to like performing the poems I’ve already read to them. Very occasionally, this leads to a boy wanting to read a poem out to the class! This is great, as there’s a real push to get boys reading at the moment—boys are much less likely to be readers than girls.
All of the boys I know who are avid readers started off by loving Harry Potter—what do the boys in your class like to read?
I let the boys in my class read whatever they want during reading times—rugby magazines, annuals, anything (within reason). The class has just been through a Roald Dahl phase recently, because of the focus on Roald Dahl during Book Week.
What book would you recommend to adults who aren’t readers? What about children?
With children, again I think Roald Dahl. He’s able to engage children across a wide range of ages and abilities—if you think about something like Danny, the Champion of the World (which is quite hard), and then The Twits or Esio Trot, which isn’t too challenging at all—it’s remarkable that he remains engaging at all those different levels. He really did write books that children love.
For adults, I think I would recommend the Narnia books. There is a depth to the stories, but they’re not too hard or too long for people who aren’t used to reading to stick with them. Also, I know and love the stories, and I would enjoy rereading them with someone who was experiencing them for the first time.
Wait, I have more comments!
I think Book Week and World Book Day are fantastic tools for encouraging children to read, depending on how schools use them. In the school I teach in now, we don’t give the book vouchers directly to the children—because of the level of deprivation in the area, there’s a real risk that those vouchers would never make it anywhere near a bookshop. Instead, we talk through all the books that are available with the children, explaining the blurbs and showing them the pictures. They tell us which books they want, and we order them directly and give them to the children. That way, we’re sure that they are all getting a book. I don’t know who funds it, but it would be tragic if World Book Day ended and the free books stopped. Also, I read recently that someone—I think maybe Puffin**—are selling classics to secondary schools for £1. I think that’s just brilliant and it will help a lot more teenagers to get into reading.
Thanks for being interviewed! I have very fond memories of reading with you when I was a child, although not the Biff and Chip books.
Yes! They weren’t as bad as the Village of Three Corners, though. I had to sit through those twice. It’s why I didn’t have any more children.
*This is a story about a small toy dog.
**It’s actually Penguin.