Friday, 21 February 2014

Read For My School - Megan Rix and Ruth Symes

(Our lovely puppy girl Emma)

When I was at primary school I caught whooping cough and had to spend weeks and weeks at home in bed. Nowadays I’d have been able to play on my computer and maybe have a TV in my room (which I would have loved back then in the 1970’s but didn’t have.) Instead twice a week my mum went to the library and brought me home lots of library books to read and I also read through just about every book in our house, appropriate or not. Dennis Wheatley horrors were a huge favourite.

I was away for such a long time that everyone in my class sent me a letter as part of an English project and I wrote back. My letters were all about the books I’d been reading and the characters in them. No longer was I wondering how to sound out each word as I read - now I wanted to know what happened next in the story and imagined myself as the characters in them. I became totally immerssed in the books. Condensed Readers’ Digest versions of Nevil Shute’s books gave me a longing to go to Australia which I did in my 20’s. Just as the books my Gran read to me, before I could read, about a Maori village made my first visit to New Zealand a very special trip. 

Once I wasn’t contagious and allowed to go to the library by myself I discovered Jean Plaidy in the adult section that happened to be closest to the children’s area and history became my books of choice for a while.

Almost a whole half-term off school meant I needed help catching up in maths (I'd completely missed out on roman numerals) but the strange thing was I'd gone from near the bottom of the class in English to near the top. All that reading had paid off and once I'd caught the reading bug I didn't stop. I can remember looking at the comprehension part of the test paper and then down at the questions below and just ‘getting it’ for probably the first time. It wasn’t that I hadn’t liked making up stories long long before this time it was just the mechanics of it all had got me a bit lost.

I see this time and again when I take my dog Traffy into school to listen to children read and love it when the child changes from stumbling over sounding out the letters and feeling hesitant and unsure to being gripped by the story and a more confident reader.

The Read For My School annual competition launched at the end of January and runs until the 28th of March and it’s not too late to take part. It challenges pupils in England from year 3 to year 8 to read as many books as they can in 2 months - which is about the same amount of time it took to turn me from a non-reader into an avid one and I’m sure for many children Read For My School will do the same.

Megan's books about dogs in WW2 have been shortlisted for the East Sussex, Doncaster, Stockton, Shrewsbury and Worcestershire Children's Books of the Year.

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