Reading has always been an important part of my life. One of my first memories of reading is of sitting in my Mum's bed feeling warm and safe whilst she read 'The Cat in the Hat' to me.
Perhaps this event was a particularly memorable one due to my being the youngest of eight children with both a mother and father who worked full time. This meant time alone with my Mum was precious.
I remember Mum initially read the book to me and then gradually after lots of repetition I read the same book to her. Mum had, she told me later, bought a set of Dr Seuss books with the intention of teaching me to read. This strategy was, she would enjoy telling me, very successful as I could read quite proficiently by the age of four.
Years later when I became a parent I read to and with my children regularly trying to pass on to them the gift of reading.
It is as a teacher though that I became a true reading evangelist.
Reading is an important part of my classroom where the more recognised 'formal teaching' of reading plays only a tiny part.
I read to my class as regularly as possible, the books I read range from picture books such as The Stickman by Julia Donaldson and Katie Morag by Maori Hedderwick to The Enchanted Garden by Enid Blyton.
The children are encouraged to bring books into school. They talk about and share their favourite books making recommendations and suggestions to their friends.
We visit the local library at least twice a year and our own school library weekly.
We have a class library filled with books of all types. These books are an eclectic mixture of books collected over the years from jumble sales, charity shops and library book sales. The library also contains a box of reading buddies, a box of cuddly toys, which they choose to accompany them whilst they read.
The children love choosing their own books from the library with absolutely no adult interference. The books they choose in class are for reading independently.
It is interesting to watch them the first few times they do this as it is quite alien to them. I don't think I realised quite how much adults interfere in children's book choices. Clearly this is done with the best of intentions but actually if we are brave enough the children quickly learn to sort it out for themselves.
Initially they choose books either too easy or too hard but after a few attempts they actually get it just right. They then settle down somewhere either in the library corner or at their tables with their book and reading buddy tucked under their arm.
Total silence then ensues!
It is a wonderful sight to see a class full of 6 and 7 year olds of all reading abilities losing themselves in a book! It doesn't matter if they begin by looking at the pictures or get stuck on the odd word, they quickly develop the strategies needed and rapidly begin to enjoy the independence that reading gives them. The joy of reading, a gift for life!
Are you a reading evangelist?