Storytime at school

Hearing the new children’s laureate talking about her aim to encourage storytelling at school and membership of libraries made me think back to my days at school, particularly primary school. We always seemed to have a class book on the go, with a few minutes here and there spent listening to the story. The first ones I can remember was from a teacher in what would now be year 3, who loved Rupert Bear. She had a collection of annuals, and she would read them to us, but with a twist: the stories were told in three ways, with images, with traditional stories and with rhyming couplets, and she would read out each rhyming couplet to us minus the final word, which we would then have to guess/fill in. Mostly it was obvious from the context and the rhyme, but other times it was a challenge. Either way, it was a way of engaging all of us in storytime.

Another teacher once read Stig of the Dump to us. I still associate that book with being read out in class and having to listen; as a bookworm, I was always very happy to read them myself, but still the pleasure of sitting listening brings back pleasant memories.

Our teacher in what would now be year 6, the last year at Junior School, read the James Herriot books to us. Again, I was totally entranced, and loved the stories about the different animals. This was about the same time as the TV series was on, and I gladly got my hands on the other books in the series to read as well – probably my first official introduction to an adult book rather than a children’s book.

At secondary school we would read a book together, which meant each person in turn would be expected to read out a page or two. I would usually try to read to myself far enough ahead that the voice wasn’t a distraction, because by then I was too impatient to listen. One book I remember this way was a book called The Gift, which featured a boy called David who was telepathic.

When my own children grew to the age where I wanted them to eat at the table but they didn’t want to wait until their Dad came home late in the evening, I got into the habit of sitting reading to them while they ate. We enjoyed many a book that way: after watching a TV series about life as a pioneer we read Little House on the Prairie, we worked our way through the Dark is Rising series, a few other fantasy books like Garth Nix, Adventure books like Swallows and Amazons and far too many others to mention. It was always fun to debate what book to read next (incidentally I did once try to interest them in James Herriot, but despite being of similar age to when I heard it, they just found it too hard and were not interested, sadly).

Even as an adult I love it when hubby agrees to read to me in bed – one night our sons had to knock on our bedroom door and tell us to be quiet as he’d got too carried away – Pusey Ogg was the guilty party, I seem to remember, yelling “Wanna soldier! Wanna soldier!” The only problem comes when I fall asleep – as I usually do – and the next night we have to figure out how far I actually remember.

In short, my love of reading is mixed with a love of listening to stories, and I’m glad that there’s going to be a push to encourage children to listen to whole books in a large group again; there’s no finer way to encourage a love of books.


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