The second post is so much easier. The pressure is off.
Now, truth be told, I should have started this blog about six months ago, maybe even this time last year. That was when my life as a reader began to emerge and re-form after the painful, sleep-deprived, I-can’t-speak-let-alone-read period known as early parenthood.
Let me clarify – during this time I was, of course, reading. Both my children have heard me read and re-read hundreds if not thousands of books. We started with board books and ‘first 100 words’ books and on through the picture book classics – Michael Rosen, Jill Murphy, Judith Kerr. My three year-old-boy now enjoys playful poems and, somewhat predictably, anything with knights and superheroes (at this point in his reading life, he is insistent that he ‘doesn’t like words’ and only picture books are ‘proper books’). My five-year-old girl is on her second reading of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and loved The Magic Faraway Tree. They share an appreciation of Winny the Witch, both fascinated by Korky Paul’s illustrations and Winny’s strikingly unusual lips. Reading has been happening, that’s for sure.
But it was only recently that I found the time and mustered the energy to read books again for myself, for my pleasure and my interest. Selfish, I know.
And, like stars aligning, this was also a time in my professional life where books were beginning to feature more prominently. I work in a school and, almost a year ago to the day, I started the process of setting up a school library. There had been one, years ago before my time, but it had been ripped out for some reason or another. So, with nothing but a battered old room – affectionately known as ‘The Breakfast Club’ – and some cash scraped from the pot, the library began to take shape.
Hundreds of books arrived in school and as each box was opened I realised this was what I loved – books, books and more books. Once the shelves were stocked, the hard work began – how to get them in to the hands of children? In my school, where reading for pleasure was limited and bookishness was an unusual trait, spotted only in one or two outliers – it came down to me, the grown up, knowing the books well and being able to help children navigate through this new world.
And that was the problem. I didn’t know the books well. I remembered reading many – CS Lewis, Roald Dahl, Robert Westall – but long, long ago. So many others were unknown to me. I’d never read new authors like Frank Cottrell Boyce, or Piers Torday. To my shame, many of the classics had passed me by (or I’d forgotten them) – I didn’t know the Wolves of Willougby Chase or the Midnight Fox or Carrie’s War.
I remember looking at the freshly stocked shelves in the library, with hundreds of pristine covers, beautifully unbroken spines and that unique intoxicating smell of an unturned page. With a mix of embarrassment at my literary ignorance, and a little new-found energy – I began to read.
I started with The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd.