It All Started In September…

Welcome to the first of many fortnightly guest blogs! The first comes from one of my most recent twitter pals Jack. Without further ado…

It started in September. Sitting at a forty-five-degree angle in a hospital bed, having recently undergone the most uncomfortable seven minutes of my life to date. I won’t go into too much detail, but it ends in ‘-oscopy’. After being informed that the pain I’d been suffering on and off for the previous three years was fistulating Crohn’s Disease, I wasn’t in the best of places (mentally or physically). Enter Darren Shan.

I read sporadically in primary school, enough to get my parents off my back and pull me through the year six tests with a level four. Less in secondary, apart from a spike when Horowitz’s ‘Power of 5’ series dropped. I read when I had to, rarely for pleasure. Throughout my time at university, I obviously read for assignments/dissertation etc. but it was never for ‘pleasure’. Even through my first three years of teaching, despite incessantly banging on at the students I taught to read, preaching about how crucial it was – what a hypocrite! 

That all changed at Leicester Royal Infirmary. The fellows I shared a ward with largely slept, the Wi-Fi wasn’t free (I know, I was appalled too), and I ended up filling my time with random, inane activities. 84 tiles on the ceiling, in case you were wondering. A year five child I had taught the previous year recommended a series of books to me, The Saga of Darren Shan. This child’s writing was some of the best I’ve seen at primary, and I’d noticed how darkly descriptive it always was. I wasn’t far through the first book before I realised why.

Anyway, I rinsed through the entire twelve-book series, the following four-book series explaining the life of Larten Crepsley (a huge character in the Shan series), and RJ Palacio’s ‘Wonder’ in the space of two weeks. A reader was born.

I took this new, overflowing love for reading into my classroom. And boy have the children responded to it. I was so proud to hear that lots of them had received books for as Christmas presents, and many of them brought them to school to show me. Reading has become an integral part of our learning. We’re constantly talking about books. There isn’t a groan when I say that we’re reading more of our class book (currently ‘Sweet Pizza’, thank you to Mr. Booth).

However, hospital made me a reader. Reading Rocks ’16 is where the reading teacher exploded. I spent the day listening intently to the likes of Mat Tobin, James Clements, Neill Cameron and Michael Tidd talk about reading. The venue itself breathed reading (nods towards The District CE Primary School). I met people such as Simon Smith and the enigmatic That Boy Can Teach, both inspirational teachers with a passion for reading and its effect on a child’s education.

So, from September to December, I read like a lunatic. It was December when I first heard about the ‘52 book challenge’, where people were attempting to read fifty-two books during a calendar year. This sort of thing resonates with me for a two main reasons: 

  • I love reading.
  • I love counting and recording things.

Yes, I love counting things. I love keeping records of what I’ve done. I count and record the different football grounds I’ve visited. I count and record the countries I’ve travelled to. I even count and record, with the help of last.fm, the songs I listen to. So, this challenge appealed to me greatly in that respect.

In practice, I’m aware that it’s going to be difficult. I make time to read before bed. How much I read varies wildly from two words to one hundred pages. But I want to do this. My class have loved hearing about the challenge, and have all taken sheets home to record progress for their own challenges.

I’m writing this blog two weeks into the challenge, and roughly 80% through my second book. It’s been difficult. It’s been hard to read on school nights, and I haven’t read as much as I would like to on those nights. However, it’s important that this challenge doesn’t become a ‘Oh, I must read x number of pages tonight otherwise I’m not going to reach y target’ type of thing. Sleep is important, and being as fit as possible to teach my children is important.

My Twitter feed will be updated every time I finish a book, as will my Goodreads page (if you aren’t on Goodreads, get on it! There’s a group for teachers doing the challenge). Thanks for reading my first ever blog. Thanks to Steph (@eenalol) for allowing me the space on her fantastic blog, check out her other posts if you’re stumbling across this page for the very first time.

Keep reading.

@Mr_P_Hillips

——————————————————————

Thank you so much to Jack for agreeing to be my first guest blogger! 

This blog is important to me in so many ways. It promotes reading, it promotes teacher reading and it shows that reading really is one of the most amazing things. Jack is so right that there are some wonderful book loving educaters out there on twitter. The conversation is always there to be had, just tweet one of us!

Go and follow Jack on Twitter, his handle is in the post.

S x

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