Monday, 1 September 2014
Tuesday, 26 August 2014
For the sake of anonymity I won't mention her name. She was my classics teacher in sixth form (and if she's reading this I'm sure she'll know who she is). She made classes fun and made us feel like grown-ups.
We had quite a small classics group, which met in one of the upper rooms in the school. It was a lovely group that enjoyed sharing its learning with each other. Part of the reason for this was the way that our teacher made us all feel valued. I particularly enjoyed when she would set us individual or paired tasks to present a certain topic to the rest of the class. These sessions made us go into much greater detail than we would otherwise on a particular subject, and they often played on our own interests.
Her lessons felt much more like university seminars than other school lessons. We would sit together round a single table discussing whatever we were studying. Often she would bring us cups of tea and we would share biscuits. She used to tell us it was our little secret, as she shouldn't really be bringing us things out of the staffroom.
She inspired me to love classics, even the architecture bits which I've never enjoyed learning about with anyone else. As a result I went on to do Ancient History and Archaeology at University, and then did my dissertation about how Ancient History is taught in primary schools (focusing on the Romans mostly). I even began to enjoy using my limited Latin skills to translate tombstones, and inscriptions in churches.
So you can see that she really shaped my future, giving me increased confidence, as well as inspiring my ongoing learning. If you're reading this, thank-you.
What do you think makes a good teacher?
Monday, 25 August 2014
I think, for me, the most important thing I've learnt is not to be too preoccupied with visitor and follower statistics.
When I began blogging it all seemed to be about statistics. Every form seemed to ask how many followers you had, every author wanted to know how many visitors would see their review. To get bigger, you were told, you had to make sure you posted at least once a day. It was important to join all the memes you could, check facebook every hour, and join in as many challenges as possible. In short, it was impossible to be a successful blogger and have any sort of 'real world' life. Or at least, that's how it appeared.
Now don't get me wrong, its good to make sure you have lots of contents on your blog. But its more important to interact properly with your followers and readers, and to get a good blogging-life-work balance. That means that stats can't be everything!
And they don't need to be either! I no longer put stats first, but I still get plenty of book review requests. The authors that ask me seem to be attracted by my style of review, the likelihood of getting a positive review, and (more often than not) simply getting their presence onto as many blogs as possible.
I also enjoy replying to my comments in a way that wasn't possible when I had loads of people simply posting links to their own blogs, It feels like my readers and much more engaged with what I am posting, and not just jumping through hoops to get their own blogs recognised.
In short, I'm enjoying blogging much more than I used to!
What would your top tip be for a new book blogger?
Sunday, 24 August 2014
We studied quite a lot of books at school, but if I'm honest very few of them inspired me. My memories of school English Literature lessons are trying to understand Shakepeare and books that I generally found quite boring.
It was the school English visits and writing assignments that inspired me. I watched Romeo and Juliet (The Leonardo DiCaprio version) for my GCSE coursework and rather enjoyed it. We also went to see a rather shocking (for a niave teenage girl) version of the same play (think nudity). At another time we acted out A Midsummer Night's Dream.
I remember going to see authors. The most memorable of these was seeing Anthony Horowitz. Now before I tell this tale you need to know that I have a short left arm (it only grew to just past the elbow).
My school was lucky enough to go and listen to Anthony Horowitz talk about one of his latest books alongside several other local schools. I was really excited as I'd been reading some of his books at the time (actually one of these may have been assigned by the school, but I can't remember for sure). Being a young teenager this meant that me and my friends were in a rather silly mood. So, imagine the scene, several hundred young people packed together and listening with rapt attention to one of their favourite authors. At the end he starts to answer questions. "Would you ever give up writing?" one person asks. Mr Horowitz replies that he'd rather lose his left hand.
At which point my rather over-excited friend started nudging me, "put your hand up, go on". And so, a little embarrassed but over-excited myself, I raised my left arm.
Well, my memory is that Anthony Horowitz went puce. Poor man, I hadn't meant for him to be that embarrassed! At the signing of Groosham Grange he apologised profusely and I now have a very special signed copy.
What does this have to do with inspiring me you may ask. Well, having already made as much of a fool of myself as I could with Anthony Horowitz I didn't feel as nervous as I normal would writing to him. And so, a while later, I wrote to the author enclosing a story that I myself had written and asking if he had any tips. I may not have (yet) become the author I wished to be back then, but his reply did inspire me to never stop writing. So, without Anthony Horowitz I probably wouldn't be writing this here!
Have you ever written to an author?
Did you receive a reply?
Saturday, 23 August 2014
Keep Blogging Smoothly or Mix Things Up?
Well, I hope my blog does a mixture of these two things already, but I must admit that its got harder now that I have a full time job.
One of the things I'd like to do this academic year is try to schedule some more posts in advance. I'm aware that my blogging can currently get a little slow during term-time and then suddenly speed up in the holidays (especially the summer ones). To combat this I'd like to spend more time in the holidays blogging and then set posts to come up during term time. These could be review posts, topic posts, or guest posts.
Mixing Things Up
I want to continue to do memes and challenges during the holiday periods. I want to be more active it finding out when challenges (particularly reading challenges) are taking place and join them when I can.
I also want to continue on doing more posts about England and indie author/ publishers. I need to try to keep up better with what's going on in the publishing world in order to do this.
Please share about your blog and what makes it special
Friday, 22 August 2014
I wrote quite a lot about this yesterday when answering the question how to foster a love of reading in kids. So today I'd like to focus specifically on bedtime reading.
For as long as I can remember my Mum and Dad have read. As a youngster I was aware of books surrounding me, and enjoyed both the school and public libraries. But my favourite time of the day was most certainly bedtime, because this was when I would get to share a book with my parents.
I can't really remember what books I read in those early days. I'm pretty sure 'The Hungry Caterpillar' was one of them though. The readers I got set by school were generally below my level (there was a prescribed order and you couldn't miss any one) so we enjoyed reading books that my Mum or Dad, Grandma or Auntie had bought for me. My Mum used to talk to me about the pictures and what was going on, encouraging me to sound out the letters as I went. This was our routine and I loved it.
As I got older I began to read at bedtime on my own. I remember hiding the book when my Mum came to kiss me goodnight. She'd tell me to go to sleep and not to read too much. At first she would switch off the light herself, then she began to let me do it to give me a little more reading time (if it didn't go off after a while she'd pop her head round the door and ask me to stop reading). Often the book was too good though and I took to hiding a torch it my bedding and then reading by torchlight until my eyelids started sagging. On a few occasions this was pretty late!
So, what made this love of reading? Well, I guess it was partly the routine. But it was also the memories of lovely times with my parents and that feeling of love that was associated with bedtime. And then there was the fact that I'd often dream about what I'd been reading, sending me off into night-time adventures.
And so reading became for me about love, sharing and adventures. And I guess it still is to some extent for me today. How can you not love that?
What do you love about reading?
Thursday, 21 August 2014
First of all let me state that I am not a parent, so I can only speak from my own experiences.
My own love of reading began from an early age. I'm pretty sure that having lots of bookshelves around me and seeing my parents enjoying reading on holiday helped me to see books as something enjoyable and part of normal life. My Mum used to read with me a lot, at bedtime and using school reading books. She asked me questions about the books and got me not just interested in the words, but in what was happening in the pictures and the story as a whole.
As I grew up I began to become interested in writing. Again my Mum fostered this, encouraging me my drawing pictures to accompany my stories. This made words fun for me. I read a lot around this time, looking for inspiration for my own writing, and simply enjoying the stories themselves.
I loved reading at bedtime. As a well-behaved child, the slight risk of trying to read my torch-light after I should have been asleep was exhilarating. I loved a fantastical story (The Faraway Tree was one of my favourite books). These fantasy worlds used to go into my play at school as well.
I guess I was partly a natural reader, and I realise that for others it doesn't necessarily come naturally. However, I can see some common themes that seem to have fostered a love of reading in those kids I have babysat and worked with:
- Sharing reading as a family. This should start young, in my opinion. Start by reading to the child, then ask them questions about the pictures, and finally get them to read for themselves. A regular reading slot (ideally bedtime) should be a joy for all, especially in a busy household. Parents should let the children see them enjoying the story, and getting excited by the child's own enthusiasm.
- Read fun books. School reading schemes are all well and good, but they do not generally foster a love of reading. It's important to let a child pick what they want to read where possible. Buy books with characters and themes that they enjoy. Take them to the library and let them chose a book. If they like non-fiction then that's OK as well! And don't just read out of book- let them see you making up your own stories or retelling well known ones. One of the things that's shocked me the most at my local Junior Church is that children no longer seem to know you're telling them a story unless it comes out of a book! How can they enjoy making up their own stories if they think they need to be written down?!
- Set a good example! By this I mean letting the children see you reading. The best time to do this, in my opinion, is on holiday when you can really settle down and enjoy a good book. Now, I realise this may be easier said than done if you have young children running round your feet. But maybe you could occasionally let them go off to holiday club and return to discover you reading. You need to give the impression that this is more important to you than cleaning or cooking dinner! Then it may become important to them as well!
- Encourage reading wherever possible! What are the ingredients on the cereal? Can you read the menu at the restaurant? What does that sign say? Make reading a part of everyday life! And if your children show any enthusiasm then go with the flow! If you want to foster a love of reading then you have to make time for it!
- Encourage friends and family to give books as presents. To do this you will need to make sure you keep them up to date with reading ability and interests of your child. However, I think its worth it as then they see reading as something that society values and not just their immediate family.
To add to all this, I would also suggest making reading a game. Maybe you could join BookCrossing and then they could help you register and wild release books. What could be more exciting than tracking a book's journey round the world? And for the computer lover, it also gives another route into reading by encouraging them to read a book before they can do they ICT part.
What would your tips be for encouraging reading?