Category Archives: Blogging
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.
After my post the other day, I decided to start writing reviews (thanks anon person who responded to the post). I’ve not created a new section of the blog called The Book Club. In there I will link all my book reviews and will add how I read the book, by eye or by ear, and how long it took me to read it. Hopefully some of you will find it useful to find new books to read!
Please take into consideration that I work part-time at the moment. This means that I do spend a lot of time reading, so the time I have taken to read the books include days where I plough through books on days off. If the number of days seem unrealistic to you as a reader, don’t worry! You’ve probably got a lot less free time on your hands than what I currently do.
I’m listing the reviews in alphabetical order to the surname of the author to make it easier to find a particular book/author. I’m adding what genre the book is too even though I mostly read fiction at the moment.
Would love your feedback and if there is anything else you would like from a book review as a dyslexic person.
Frank Zappa has created music that has been in my collection for many years and I have learnt valuable lessons about “Yellow Snow” which I will definitely NOT be eating. Mr Zappa once said, “So many books, so little time.” This is a quote I have really taken to heart in the last few years.
I’m covering a bit of old ground here, but it is something that I am becoming more passionate about since taking on the Goodreads Challenge earlier this year. That and jealousy of conversations I have been left out of in regards to popular fiction and classic books everyone seems to assume that you have read. Read the rest of this entry
I’ve been a lot quieter on the blog front of late. I’ve not had a lot to say so didn’t want to waffle on for the sake of waffling. I have been keeping involved though through the Twitter chat I host, #DDChat, which takes place on Thursdays 8-10pm UK and Irish time. I do plan to write a brand new blog this week though, so keep your eyes peeled. Until then, I hope you’ve all been enjoying the summer as much as I have (even though mine has been crazy busy!).
I haven’t blogged now in over a month! I have been away on holiday for my birthday, but I planned on writing over this weekend. Sadly that didn’t happen because I’ve been suffering a 3 day hangover now…
…From reading books!!! Read the rest of this entry
Today is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. The Napoleonic Wars were never an era of history I knew much about or was particularly interested until a few years ago when studying my family tree. Now I am desperate to find out more information on several members of my family, both directly linked or great uncles, who served during the Napoleonic Wars. Here is a bit of what I have found out so far. Read the rest of this entry
I had a strange dream yesterday morning which inspired me to start writing a short story. I haven’t written any stories since I was at school, though I have had plenty of ideas for writing books that I am collecting together. This story is completely unrelated to the fictional book that I want to write and which I have mentioned on the blog before.
The title at the moment is ‘Howard’s Gaol’ which is a fictional creation from my dream yesterday morning. I am hoping to have a first draft by the end of the week so I am going to finish this blog, drink my cup of tea and work out what music to listen to that will keep my within my creative state of mind.
The story currently has no real structure to it or an ending. I have my character who is currently very 2D with a name and a little bit of background. I’m just writing to see where the story goes and to see where I need to start improving in my storytelling if I seriously want to start writing fictional books.
I will keep you all posted on my progress. So far I am over 1000 words and have a rough introduction and two draft chapters that I am adding to. I am not giving anything other than the title away for now…
There are only so many hours in a day…
I have been finding myself very overwhelmed the last few weeks. I started a new job, which is the best job I have had and I love it a lot. I am only working part-time so I have loads of spare time to do other things like blogging, genealogy, listening to music, writing reviews, writing ideas for my books, pulling together questions for #DDChat, joining in other Twitter chats, watching Game of Thrones… Read the rest of this entry