My Experiences as a Reader
From what my mother tells me, my early reading life consisted of us reciting nursery rhymes and singing together. I remember having books of Fairy Tales with illustrations that were both beautiful and terrifying. My other early memories center more around classic children’s television programming more than books.
I attended a French Immersion school, so my primary school books were ‘Dimoitou et ses amis’, and Robert Munch translated into French.
My interest in books blossomed slowly and really bloomed when my mother took my brother and I to our public library. I was introduced to Dr. Seuss and other books that I would borrow again and again. I was fond of rhyming and repetition and rereading.
Books gradually became an escape for me in my junior and intermediate years. I was always very heavily into television, so when I was told to turn off the TV, I would escape into some Babysitter Club, RL Stein, or Christopher Pike book and later any Caroline B. Cooney book that I could get my hands on. I attribute my becoming a voracious reader to Archie comics and Babysitter Club books. Although I attempted a few classics when I was stranded at my Grandparent’s house, I wasn’t really ready and ended up quickly abandoning many of them. I did enjoy the adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, and fell in love with Alice in Wonderland, but wouldn’t read another acclaimed children’s classic until much later. My love of television got me hooked on another form of comic book as Japanese animation became popular. Through this medium I discovered Manga (Japanese style comic books) and began a collection of Heroine-centred and fantasy themed manga books.
Starting high school, I continued to read for pleasure to avoid doing homework when there was nothing of interest on TV or my parents thought I’d watched enough for the day. My feelings about the required reading in my high school English classes depended half on the book itself and half on the teacher’s personality and style of teaching. I had very little patience for the ‘read a chapter then answer these questions’ method of reading instruction. Now as an afterthought I find it really strange that we read so many plays in English class, but never acted any out. Some notable books we read in High School included Romeo & Juliet and Brave New World. I continued with French Emerson, so we had twice as many novels and pieces of literature to study. I really enjoyed reading Le pont sur la rivier Kwai, (The Bridge on the River Kwai) in French, but I couldn’t help noticing the books we read in French class were far racier with themes of sexuality and explicit language. On top of the required reading in high school I discovered Harry Potter series quite by accident. Like everyone before and after me, I instantly got swept into the world of Hogwarts.
In University, I continued my study of foreign languages by majoring in Spanish language and literature. This opened up yet another world of books. I fell in love with the short plays by Paloma Pedrero, the movies of Pedro Almodovar and books such as Bajarse al moro.
One summer I took a Children’s literature class as an elective and was blown away by all the classics I had either abandoned or hadn’t even interested me as a child. I was introduced to Watership Down which holds a strong position among my favorite books of all time. This was one of the best courses I took in University and the diversity of books I was exposed to was truly outstanding.
In teacher’s college and my first years of teaching, I am thankful to have been introduced to so many great children’s authors and the power of picture books in particular.
Nowadays I am extremely thankful for technology, because it has really revolutionised how I read and what I read. Because I’m living and teaching overseas, I don’t have very easy access to books in English and colleagues who share the same practices and resources as the ones I left in Ontario. I keep up do date via on-line resources and blogs related to Young Adult and Children’s literature. I get ideas for professional resources and non-fiction reads via renowned teaching blogs and websites. I can carry my library with me on my Kindle and I can listen to audio books while doing the dishes or laundry.
Right now I am very into Young Adult and Adult Fantasy and Futuristic Distopian Genres. Books by Megan Whalen Turner, Kristen Cashore, Melina Marchetta, Susanne Collins, and George R.R. Martin are some recent favorites.
How these Experiences Influence the Way I Teach Reading
The reading experiences I have had over the years have made me realise that readers develop at their own pace. Independent of all curriculum and other mandated documents, I try to teach both students and their parents that reading is a very personal endeavour. It’s ok to abandon books, to ‘get stuck in a rut’ of a particular genre or author, to reread and to read electronically or with your ears (audio books). I try to provide my students with different media, such as pictures, articles, and movies to help enrich the reading experience and I do my best to expose them to different forms of reading material such as books, magazines, manuals, websites, audiobooks, comic books, manga, etc. I also try to read a lot of books at the appropriate age level of my students and keep up to date with new authors and trends. I am therefore able to recommend and discuss reading material with my students. My goal is to help students find the joy in reading for pleasure any way I can.