A Reading Autobiography
The pleasure of reading is the ability to escape the present and travel into another world, where you can imagine and discover other lives and experiences, thus broadening our own senses.
Acquiring the ability to read is I’m afraid something I’ve quite forgotten. However, my earliest memory of looking at books is with my twin sister. In the mornings we’d trudge along to our parents' room, arms heavily laden with books to look at and read with them. My sister and I loved ‘The Baby’s Catalogue’ by Janet and Allan Ahlberg and used to constantly compare ourselves to the twins, and spot the similarities! ‘Peepo’ and ‘Each Peach Pear Plum’ were also firm favourites. We’d spend hours just looking at the intricate illustrations and often doing our best to copy them. Before I was able to read independently, I think it was important to find books that were visually appealing, so that the illustrations alone could convey the story and encourage me to want to read and understand more fully.
‘Alfie and Annie Rose’ stories by Shirley Hughes were always a pleasure to read, and again the details in the illustrations were both captivating and engaging. They allowed the reader to know so much more about the characters and the scene, than just the words on the page.
For my nephew’s first birthday, I decided to give him a collection of books to go towards his own library. I made sure ‘The Baby’s Catalogue’, ‘Peepo’ and ‘Each Peach Pear Plum’ were all included. I wouldn’t want him to miss out on such inspiring children’s literature.
Of course authors such as Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis all featured heavily on my bookshelf as I got older. One of my favourite stories that I particularly treasured as a child and even now as an adult, is Lewis’ Narnia; The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe.
I remember my Godparents reading this to me and my siblings, every evening when we were staying with them on holiday. I loved the fantastical land described and the subsequent imagery it evoked. Lewis’ descriptions of his weird and wonderful creatures and the four children are vivid and enchanting.
I particularly enjoyed the fact its protagonists were four children, two boys and two girls. Being one of four children myself, I enjoyed making comparisons between us and Lucy, Susan, Edmund and Peter. We often played games whereby we would all become a character and re-enact our favourite parts of the book.
The triumph of good over evil and the apparent allegory of the crucifixion make this a powerful tale.
But one book that particularly stands out from my childhood is, ‘Stories from Codling Village’ by Susan Hill. It was one of her few children’s books and a very memorable read for me. I would regularly get it out of the library and reread my favourite stories, look at the pictures and of course study the map! Codling Village appeared to be a rural idyll, which greatly appealed to me and my desire to live in a village. The detailed map on the inside cover of the book, enabled me to envisage the place as if it was real.
On reflection however, my favourite book as a child was 'Mrs Pig's Bulk Buy', written and illustrated by Mary Rayner. It's a humorous story about the dangers of indulging in too much of a good thing, in this case ketchup!
At Junior school, we had a ‘Meet the Author day’ with Paul Stewart, author of ‘ The Weather Witch’. He came in and read extracts and ran workshops. I remember his impact being very powerful and inspiring when it came to my outlook on reading and creative writing.
Today I enjoy reading historical novels, Scott’s ‘Kenilworth’ was a rather sober read but very interesting, a book I was encouraged to read by my father since moving to Warwickshire. However, I was rather relieved when I got to the end. ‘Lady’s Maid’ by Margaret Forster, was a fascinating read, which inspired me to read more of Elizabeth Barret Brownings’ works and led me to read ‘Flush’ by Virginia Wolf, life with Elizabeth BB through her dog’s eyes!
I have just finished a very current book, ‘One Day’ written by David Nicholls, which was a very easy and enjoyable read. Reading is great escapism as well as having the potential to educate you on the past and current affairs. 'Brixton Beach' and 'The Kite Runner' are both books which opened my eyes to worlds far from my own.
I am sometimes partial to the odd aga-saga and would choose Rosemunde Pilcher or Joanna Trollope to satisfy the craving!
Austen is always a great read, my favourite being ‘Sense and Sensibility’, she has the ability to make you both laugh and cry.
My favourite book as an adult, is a tough choice between ‘Love in a Cold Climate’ by Nancy Mitford and ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier. Both take the reader back to England’s recent past in the early to mid 20th century. I can just close my eyes and imagine the splendour of Manderley with it’s vast grounds that extend to the coast and see the curtain twitching from Mrs Danvers at her window.
‘The Mitford Girls’ by Mary S. Lovell was a biography that fully engrossed me and led to me to want to read more around the family and the sisters’ novels.
I tend to read books that are recommended to me by friends or family members, in particular my sister and parents, who are all keen readers. Also books that are well reviewed in the media, or of particular interest to me. I particularly enjoy reading books on design, specifically relating to textiles and interiors, such as 'Pattern' by Orla Kiely. The enjoyment and fulfillment of one book can often lead me to another, such as Forster's 'Lady's Maid' and 'Flush'.
A Reflection of my PP1 Experience
In my Professional Placement 1 (PP1) I read ‘A New Home for a Pirate’ by Ronda Armitage and illustrated by Holly Swain, to the Reception class. The teacher recommended a few books for me to read, and I chose this book as it was colourful, full of rhyme and repetition, and its context had the potential to appeal to both girls and boys. It wasn’t a ‘big book’ but I held it open as I read, and the children were sat close to me on the carpet so they could see. When I read the dialogue I attempted my best pirate impersonation, which seemed to capture the children’s attention and kept them engaged. I was nervous at the thought of doing it and being observed, but once I got into it, I enjoyed the story and the fact the children were reacting in a positive way and participated when I invited them too.