Tag Archives: reading

Blind Date with a Book

Books HDThere is nothing G loves to do more than read; she really is her mother’s daughter when it comes to that particular pastime. Whenever she has a spare 5 minutes, and even if she doesn’t, you can usually find her with a book in hand, curled up somewhere quiet in the house. In fact, if you ever need to track G down, the best place to start is her bedroom as the chances are you’ll find her on her bed, engrossed in the story unfolding before her and completely lost to the outside world. Mike and M will willingly tell you that I am no different, much to M’s disgust, so the occasional times when it’s just G and me in the house can be surprisingly quiet.

read-for-my-Not long into the new term, G’s secondary school announced that they were taking part in  Read For My School 2016 organised by the Book Trust, which encourages children in Years 3-8 from across the UK to see how many books they can read between Christmas and Easter. Every school that takes up the challenge is given access to the RFMS website and each pupil registered has an on-line diary in which they can record the books they’ve read, make recommendations, write book reviews and even access some books on-line to read. G was excited by this opportunity and has been faithfully updating her reading record on a weekly basis, not least because both RFMS and her school library have offered the incentives of prizes for various achievements to the students taking part. I have asked G to be completely honest about the books she adds to her list and only include those she has actually read since Christmas, telling her that others may be a little unscrupulous when it comes to winning prizes, but that I want it to be an accurate record of her reading habits.

As well as this reading challenge, the school library has been running other events throughout the year to encourage their pupils to read, an approach which has really impressed me. At the start of the school year, G wrote her reasons for wanting to meet author Huw Powell and during 20160210_160919the recent half-term, she penned an acrostic poem as part of another competition to mark Harry Potter night in early February. These initiatives not only encourage the children to read, but also help them develop key writing and literacy skills in a fun way, something which really benefits G as, despite her passion for reading, she struggles to capture her imagination and express her thoughts on paper.

Just before half-term, G came home absolutely buzzing with excitement about the “Book Blind Date”, which she had taken part in during her day at school. This time the school library had wrapped up a number of books and added a tag which simply contained 3 or 4 words hinting towards the theme of the story. G had chosen one which intriguingly stated:

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and was desperate to see what book she had picked. She waited until we got home and then, with great fanfare and both M and me watching, she ripped the paper from the front cover to reveal her selection. Her choice, 20160210_160938“Shipwrecked” by Siobhan Curham, was something she’d probably never have chosen for herself, but this fantastic idea of a blind date with a book really appealed to her and offered her a new author to experience and perhaps a new genre to further explore. I loved this particular event as it grabbed G’s attention and those of her friends, as evidenced by the flurry of text messages that followed the grand reveal as they compared titles, and even appealed to M, who is desperate to know whether he’ll have the chance to take part when he’s in Year 7!

“Magic never dies. It merely fades away.”

This time last week one of my heroes died.  I was saddened to hear that Discworld-creator and Alzheimer’s advocate, author Sir Terry Pratchett OBE had sadly lost his battle against this unrelenting disease and I was left with the sense that our world had become just a little less colourful as a result.  With typical Pratchett-esque humour, a series of tweets, written in his own incomparable style, announced his passing, taking a lead from one of my favourite of his characters, Death:

I first discovered the Discworld and its diverse cast of characters in the late 1980s and quickly found myself reading, and re-reading, his books as I waited, often impatiently, for the next one to be published.  My Dad and I shared a love for the Discworld and my Mum often commented that she knew when either of us was reading one of Pratchett’s books as they caused us both to laugh out loud, something no other author had ever done.  Our joint appreciation for Pratchett’s fantasy world is one of my fondest memories and even now, I find myself transported back 20 years, to times spent sharing our newest discoveries in his latest novel whenever I revisit these tales these days.

tPratchettIt’s difficult to explain what made Terry Pratchett’s books just so un-put-downable to me.  His clever play on words frequently made me laugh out loud – who can forget Twoflowers’ explanation of an “Inn-sewer-ants-polly-sea” in “The Colour of Magic“?  His unashamed use of characters or plots from other authors was delightfully skilled – and the 3 Witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth were not a patch on Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and naive Magrat Garlick in “Wyrd Sisters“.  His sense of humour was evident in almost every word he wrote.  I loved nothing more than waiting to see the plot twists and turns that each new storyline would take and spotting the sometimes obvious, sometimes more oblique references to popular culture.  And in every step of my adult life; be it at university, in the work-place, waiting at the school gates or in our EGID world, he has oft become the common bond that starts a friendship or fills a gap in the conversation.

In the days following his death, Terry Pratchett’s fans have given him tribute by taking ideas from his books to create a fitting memorial.  The first was a petition asking Death to “Reinstate Terry Pratchett” because Terry himself said that “There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this” and already nearly 30,000 people have added their names to this request.

The second took an idea from his 33rd Discworld novel, “Going Postal”, which saw the advent of a communication system, somewhat comparable to the internet.  When a key character dies, a message bearing his name is sent down the lines on an unending journey to ensure that it is kept alive indefinitely because “A man is not dead while his name is still spoken.” Keen Pratchett fans have developed code that is being embedded on websites to ensure that his name is similarly forever encoded on the internet.x-gnu

In the past few days, I have started to revisit his books, many of which reside on my book-shelves, and have found myself to be once again amongst old, familiar friends.  The humour never fades and with each reading, I discover a small nuance that I hadn’t noticed before.  Rincewind, Granny Weatherwax, Captain Vimes and the Discworld have been a part of my life for nearly 30 years and I look forward to introducing both G and M to these adventures in the not-too-distant future.

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“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…”

– Reaper Man