Category Archives: Education
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!
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
Yesterday, The Guardian posted an article online called Secret Teacher: we are too quick to label children who aren’t perfect. I have shared it on social media to see reaction from the dyslexic community, but I thought I would write a response in the blog to the article too.
Knowing where to start with this is difficult. I have given my opinions on social media already, but rather than copy and paste, it is probably best to dissect the article rather than a gut reaction.
Firstly let me note that I am neither a parent nor a teacher, but I have been through the education system as an undiagnosed dyslexic who asked for help on more than one occasion. Read the rest of this entry
after the west block (After the last blog)
… using Siri I was recommended another free speech to text
… App to try out. Read the rest of this entry
today’s blog is going to be a little bit different from normal because I’m using the help of Siri on my iPad. (why no capital letter?) I’m not going to edit any of what I’ve put in today (I have added edits in brackets) and it will have all the mistakes that Siri has made. This is my second attempt at trying to write the blog because
…Siri keeps freezing just like that. I never had to use speech to text while I was at university. My particular dyslexia makes it harder for me to read rather than writing. Read the rest of this entry
John Kenton Britten
John Kenton Britten from Christchurch, New Zealand, was the founder of the Britten Motorcycle Company. He built his first motor powered go-kart at the age of 12 and at 13 he and his mate restored a motorcycle they found in a ditch. He went on to develop motorcycles that set a number of world speed records.
Although John struggled at school with dyslexia he completed a four-year mechanical engineering course at night school. He worked in the UK for four months with Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners on a design to link the M1 and M4 motorways. He returned to New Zealand and became the sole design engineer for Rowe Engineering where he designed off-road equipment and heavy machinery.
You can find out more about John Kenton Britten here: http://www.britten.co.nz
After an absence last week (because I was travelling home when it was meant to be on) #DDChat returns to Twitter this evening!
If you would like to join us then head onto Twitter and look for the hashtag #DDChat!
This week’s questions are listed below. Read the rest of this entry