Spanish Banks was my favourite beach to take my kids to because I could actually have some reading time when the tide was way, way out there and I could look down at a book. My daughter, Larkyn, completed the classic “starting school” assignment as a young scholar: Draw a picture that tells about your family. Stick mommy has fountains of tears coming out of both sides of her head. Stick Mommy is perched on top of what looks like a big box. The arrow pointing to it says “fat, sad book”. She nailed it. Rohinton Mistry, A.S. Byatt, Jane Urquhart, Michael Ondaatje, Wayne Johnson and Ann-Marie MacDonald are all near and dear to my heart. The descriptive language, the character development and the story captivates me.
In a discussion of favourite books and good reads recently, I was surprised that a colleague shares a common all time favourite book, Possession by A.S. Byatt. We laughed because in many ways we couldn’t be more different. However her observation was “Hhmmm, that’s why you can write.” Same conversation, David Hutchison, author of The Witches’ Malice was sharing his love for Edgar Allen Poe. My Dad loves Poe and always highly recommended his books for evening reading at his cabin in the Sierra Nevadas. I wouldn’t be able to put the book down, read long after everyone was sleeping and terrified myself. The visual image of the pendulum moving closer and closer still comes to mind when I’m dreading something. The Witches’ Malice, reflects Hutchison’s fascination with building suspense and the macabre imagery of the hand. The learning from the reading isn’t deliberate but pervasive.
As part of my teaching assignment next year, I am sharing a grade 3/4 classroom with a teaching partner. I am looking forward to teaching reading and writing with young children again. However I’m also looking forward to exploring the reading-writing connection with them. Many of the students in our school have English as a second or third language. Reading becomes mandatory practice rather than something that defines how we communicate. I’m looking forward to the process of working with eight and nine year olds to discover the possibilities for readers who write.