Friday, September 22, 2006

A reader for life?

I have been thinking a lot about what makes a life long reader lately. I keep coming back to Wes Fryer's blog post where he talked about Stephen Krashen's idea of a "home-run book". This is the book that a previous non reader, or reluctant reader or even just a child reader, is introduced to that hooks them on reading for life. In my research I am finding that children who previously liked reading in primary school sometimes go off it when they reach puberty,.for reasons that I don't yet know.When I think of my own experiences as a reader can remember two times in my life that I became hooked on reading. The first was when I was five and I learnt to read after about six months of school. The second time was when I was introdced to reading adult books when I was thirteen. I still remember the teacher's name, Mrs Kenworth, and what she looked like. She was a kind, motherly woman, with a sense of hmour and she turned me on to life long reading as an adult. The strange thing was that she was my maths teacher. I've never been good at maths but I liked it in Year 8. Mrs Kenworth was teaching us about deductive reasoning and she said that Sherlock Holmes exemplified this. She suggested we read Arthur Conan Doyle, which I did. Since then I have read all of Agatha Christie and enjoyed a lifetime of literature and crime fiction, not to mention English teaching. I guess she suggested my "home run book" for me. How often do we think that no matter which subject we teach that we could be the one suggesting the home run book for one of our students. Makes us think again about how we are all teachers of literacy, doesn't it? Can you remember the person that got you into reading for life?


  1. Not really, but I suspect it was my Dad. I have strong memories of sitting on his lap and having him read to me when I was very little. But I have no memory of learning to love reading; I just always did, just like Scout Finch. So it's kind of poetic that I DO remember the watershed reading event of my school days: To Kill A Mockingbird in year 10. Twelve years later I have yet to read a better novel. Apart from the brilliant prose, what made it so exceptional was the fact that we studied it so in depth at school. Previous to that experience I saw text study in English classes as a great way to ruin the simple pleasure of reading, but that novel gave me a sudden appreciation for the value of text and context analysis, etc. And I loved English from then on. The trouble is, I don't really remember exactly what made studying this novel so great, although I suspect it was Mrs McKenzie's own enthusiasm for it. What a pity I wasn't mature enough to let her know that at the time. I'm sure she, just like any other teacher, would have wanted to know that there was at least one kid out there who was actually getting something out of all the effor she was putting into her work!

  2. I think the longest books that I read on my own for fun first when growing up were Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings books. I think I started reading those when I was in middle school. I might have read Anne McAffrey's book series that includes "Dragonsong" also around that time. Tolkien might have written my "home run" book, but I'm not sure. I am sure that those are some of my most beloved books now, and ones I'm sharing with my own children now that the oldest is old enough to read them together. I really appreciated your story about your maths teacher inspiring you to read. I think this testifies to how we want teachers teaching about things they are passionate themselves about, because that passion often rubs off! :-)

  3. Anonymous8:18 pm

    I was very lucky. Both my father and mother are teachers and writers and my house was always crammed with children's books. It is difficult to say which book was my "home-run" book, but I would say Baroja's Las inquietudes de Santhi Andía. By the way, I am Spanish and live in Madrid.
    I always find your comments 'food for thought". Regarding books and reading habits, we have the same problem in Spain.