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The Imagination of the Child: Response to Graeme Whiting

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.

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Me Time

The last few weeks have been very crazy. My hours at work have been upped to full time, I’ve been bridesmaid dress shopping, I was at a gig, my partner got a new job, I’ve been sick and it was my partner’s birthday. It’s been so hectic I have barely had a chance to take a breath! Unfortunately it has meant that my blog has suffered.  Read the rest of this entry

Dyslexia and Me: “So Many Books, So Little Time”

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

Dyslexia and Me: The Book Hangover

Books New

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

Dyslexia and Me: Ayyy! It’s the Fontz

Source: Family Guy

Source: Family Guy

Maybe I should have a ‘Dyslexia: What really grinds my gears’ section because next to the ‘you should buy Irlen Lenses’ comments when I mention the visual problems I have, number two on my list is ‘you should try *insert name of font here*. I hear that it’s a great font to help dyslexic people with reading’. Well here are my thoughts.  Read the rest of this entry

Dyslexia and Me: Reading Challenge

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to start reading more. I guess for me I’ve always found reading to be a pretty miserable experience from my memories of school, college and university (to a lesser extent) with deadlines on reading a specific book or paper. Now that I am no longer in education (for the moment anyway) I’ve decided that it’s about time I tried to read more for myself.

Armed with my new iPad that I bought after leaving university as a ‘well done’ to myself, I have downloaded a number of free books on the iBooks and Kindle apps. Some classics I’ve been wanting to read for a while and some books that just seemed interesting or that appealed to me.  Read the rest of this entry

The Letters on the Page

In the light of day
I see the shadows move.
They encircle and dance
And twist their way through
The letters on the page.

The words start to party
As the disco lights begin.
Flashing all the colours
So they don’t blend or fit in
With the letters on the page.
  Read the rest of this entry

Dyslexia Awareness Month: My Top 5 Books

I never really enjoyed reading when my friends at school started chomping through them. I never associated ‘book’ with ‘pleasure’ like my best friend at school who loved her Jane Austen books after watching the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. It took me until I was 15 or 16 when I discovered Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets at the library in school that I began to understand why people like reading a book. Now I have hundreds of them! I haven’t read them all mind you! A lot of them have been used for university studies and I will have only read a specific section of the book.

Here are a section of books that I have really enjoyed! Some of them I have read more than once!!! These books are perhaps aimed more towards teenage and adult audiences, so if you’re looking for books for your dyslexic kids to read, they won’t be suitable on the whole.  Read the rest of this entry

Dyslexia and Me: Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome/Irlen Syndrome Awareness Day?

A ribbon of my own design. The blue signifies dyslexia awareness while black and white are shades that I find especially difficult to look at. The coloured dots are my 'pixel vision'

A ribbon of my own design. The blue signifies dyslexia awareness while black and white are shades that I find especially difficult to look at. The coloured dots are my ‘pixel vision’

There are a number of events throughout the year raising awareness for dyslexia. The recent ‘guerilla’ campaign by Decoding Dyslexia to raise awareness through the tag #ShowMe1in5 through social media seems to have been pretty successful (there are still people sharing the links on Twitter a I write this blog). Also Dyslexia Advocacy Week has just passed where I shared a video per day featuring a variety of dyslexic people talking about their experiences and their progression and success. However, I want my blog to cover not only dyslexia, but also Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome aka Irlen Syndrome. Having searched on Google (as you do) I have been unable to find a specific day or week dedicated to raising awareness on this specific learning difficulty that has links to dyslexia. So for this reason, I have decided to set aside this weeks blog to discuss Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome in hope to raise awareness of what it is!

While 1 in 5 may have dyslexia, it has been suggested that 1 in 7 or as many as 1 in 6 of the population are affected by Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome. So here are some facts and issues linked to Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome to hopefully give you a better understanding of this specific learning difficulty. Read the rest of this entry

Dyslexia and Me: A Month of Blogging

Banner

So I’ve been blogging on Dyslexia and Me for over a month now! It really doesn’t feel that long at all! It has been very exciting so far. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback and it has encouraged me to look into a career in learning support (though I am still searching for answers on where and what to do next, but my dissertation is my main priority the next month or so). Read the rest of this entry

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