This blog post is a response to The Imagination of the Child written by Graeme Whiting, headmaster of The Acorn School.
Dear Graeme Whiting,
I read your blog post advising against children reading books such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Terry Pratchett. I really wanted to share my feedback with you and others who read my own blog.
About 15 years ago now, when I was in high school, I was a very reluctant reader. In fact, I used to avoid books like the plague! In hindsight, this was due to the fact that I am dyslexic and I wasn’t diagnosed until 10 years later when I was 25 years old. I never had my book reviews for my English classes in on time, because it took me so long to read a novel. I ran out of time before I was half way through a book.
We were made to read books including Shakespeare in our English classes and I really didn’t enjoy it. It made my hatred of reading even greater. I didn’t grasp the humour within the pages, just a load of “Ye Olde English” that made no sense to me whatsoever. I was far more interested in playing music and found excuses not to pick up a book.
Then I heard fellow students talking about Harry Potter. Out of interest, I picked up Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I enjoyed it so much, that I picked up 3 of the other books in the series and chomped through them! This was a first for me! It made me interested in reading for the first time in my life! I then went on to read two Anne Rice books, Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat before moving on to reading George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm. If I hadn’t started out with books I loved, I doubt I’d have ever become an avid reader like I am now in my thirties.
What caused me mental health issues was not from reading Harry Potter or Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, but that my school refused to have me assessed for dyslexia and thus having little to no support with my reading. I felt stupid and belittled by teachers and fellow students. It’s a horrible feeling when you know that you’re not stupid but people talk down to you like you’re lazy or ignorant because you hate reading and it takes you twice as long as other people.
I was very lucky that when I went back to college at 25 I was diagnosed as dyslexic and was given support in college and at university too. I had a fantastic English lecturer at college too who opened my eyes to Shakespeare and I found myself laughing heartily at the jokes within Romeo and Juliet that I would never have understood before. He also reignited my love of poetry which has lead me on to reading the likes of Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney, who I perhaps would have avoided in the past.
Now I read off my own back. I read an eclectic range of books. I still love George Orwell but Oscar Wilde is probably my favourite writer. I read my first Charles Dickens book last year as well as other fantasy books in the form of Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy (the last book being over 800 pages, which was a huge achievement for me!). I generally read historical fiction, but I do try to slot in some classics too. I’m rather fond of Jane Austin too!
Rather than putting children off from reading books, perhaps it would be worth looking at WHY children have mental health issues. Perhaps the stresses of exams at school? Perhaps undiagnosed learning difficulties like myself? Perhaps family difficulties? There could be a whole host of reasons why children have mental health issues. Rather than using books you dislike as a scapegoat, it might be worth looking at the root cause of why children have behavioural difficulties or mental health issues.
Yes, reading classics can be great, but only if you can appreciate them. I know I didn’t appreciate my attempt to read Wuthering Heights last year and gave up half way through, even though it’s a book that’s held up as a classic by many. We all have different tastes and opinions. Putting children off reading is a crime though. I’d be far happier if my children (if I had children) read Harry Potter than to avoid books altogether because they thought it was boring or difficult or if the books didn’t speak to them.
May I also add that since I was diagnosed as dyslexic and having the proper support, I now have 3 Scottish Higher’s that were all A’s from college and a 2:1 MA degree with a First in my dissertation. Though I still have confidence issues after being so crushed in school, I have become a far more rounded person and someone who loves to read both modern and classic literature.
Reading books should both be educational and enjoyable. It should not be a chore. Balance is key in all things. Reading J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien may just lead children into the same area of interest I had at university in my degree of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Studies with History and reading books written by Tacitus, Bede, Adomnán, Gerald of Wales, Gildas and old Celtic and Scandinavian Saga material like The Táin, The Mabinogi etc. These are books in my collection next to the latest Philippa Gregory, Hilary Mantel and Neil Gaiman. If it hadn’t been for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, perhaps I’d have continued avoiding books and missed out on a whole world of literature that has opened my mind.
I have been trying to raise money this year for British Dyslexia Association on JustGiving. I started on 28th of February 2015 so I have just over a month to go until I switch to a new charity for 2016.
I set a very high target which I have no way in hell of reaching now. My month of #blogging4charity really didn’t go as well as I had hoped. However, I have raised £186.00 to date and would really love to smash past £200.00.
Over the next month, I am going to try my best to write some blogs to inspire you all to part with £1 or more to help me to reach my new target of £200.00!
You can donate by going to my JustGiving Page here: https://www.justgiving.com/Blog4Char2015/
Thanks folks for your generosity!
I just wanted to share with you the link to my guest blog appearance for Dyslexia Scotland. It’s all about New Year’s Resolutions and you can read it on their blog here: https://alifelessordinaryds.wordpress.com/2016/01/15/new-years-resolutions/
A huge thank you to Dyslexia Scotland for asking me to do this! I feel very privileged and honoured to be asked.
I would love if you could all head over and have a read and give it a like if you do enjoy it.
In June last year, I wrote a blog called Remembering Norwich. I was discussing my memory and how I couldn’t remember a family holiday to visit my aunt and uncle living in Norwich. I hadn’t dared to bring the topic back up again with my family because I had been snapped at by a couple of family members for saying I couldn’t remember being there, which they insisted I was. Read the rest of this entry
It was a tough end to 2016 for me. On Christmas Day my dad called to tell me that my gran had a fall at home and was in hospital. It was her second Christmas in a row spending time in hospital. It hadn’t come as too much of a shock as her health hadn’t been the best in the last two years. What did come as a shock was firstly the amount of concern in my dad’s voice which made me think there was more to this fall than previous hospital visits. Speaking later in the day it became clearer that gran had a stroke on Christmas Day. The second shock was getting a message the next day telling me that I better make my way back to my family home as soon as possible. My gran was a tough cookie so being told to come home-made me realise this was a lot more serious than I had initially thought. We booked our tickets on Boxing Day and headed back home the next day. Read the rest of this entry
I don’t normally write blogs like this. I have been sat watching the news this evening at the absolute devastation caused by the flooding in Cumbria, England. I know there are other areas of the UK who have been affected by Storm Desmond, but Cumbria have been hit really bad.
I can’t imagine how heartbreaking it must be to have your home ruined by flood water. Many of the home owners have no insurance because the premiums are too high after previous flooding in the region. They have said that the last floods they had were record-breaking, but the floods of the last few days appear to have been even worse.
It’s approaching the holiday season where most people think of giving to others either gifts or money to charities. I have already donated what I can afford to the Cumbria Flood Appeal through JustGiving. I would love my readers to consider donating too. I think any spare £1 you might have would go a long way to help those who have been so badly affected.
The link you’ll need is: https://campaign.justgiving.com//charity/cumbriafoundation/cumbriafloodappeal2015
Thank you so much for reading.
Yes folks, it’s that time of year again where we are waiting for Santa Claus to come and visit us on Christmas Eve. We’re all making sure we’re behaving because he knows who’s been naughty and nice so got to get all the nice balanced out with the naughty from the whole year. It’s an exciting time of year, especially for the children in our lives! But I’ve been noticing some fibs being circulated on social media that has made me a little bit cross. Read the rest of this entry
Sometimes I don’t realise just how overwhelmed I am. I think my lack of structure is starting to get me down and making me feel very uncomfortable in myself.
I woke up this morning to a whole load of requests from people to support other people’s projects, write blogs for other folks, do some volunteer work and go to a gig. Read the rest of this entry