Six books that chart my ‘teacher as a reader’ evolution

On day six of the Tes 12 reading days of Christmas, Aidan Severs details the books that led him to become an expert reader

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As someone who, up until a couple of years ago, wouldn’t really have considered himself a reader, I now look back and realise that I can chart, with some very significant books, my progression from non-reader to a teacher who reads.

As teachers, it is crucial we engage with the texts we teach. Here’s the books that got me to the point where I did just that.

1. Moonfleet by J Meade Falkner

This represents all the books that my dad read to me at bedtime. JRR Tolkien, HG Wells, George Orwell, William Golding, Jules Verne and CS Lewis all filled those blissful evenings. But this extraordinary tale of smuggling, subterfuge, captivity and coincidence thrilled me the most; consequently, it was a book I returned to throughout my bleakest years as a non-reader. In fact, it’s probably time for another re-read…

2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

I left university having spent four years without reading a whole book. I’d picked up the necessary volumes for assignments from the library, but beyond skimming for essay-worthy snippets, reading was not on my agenda. So when the book-loving girl I met the summer I graduated discovered I didn’t read, she decided a book was going to be the best birthday present she could give. She was right, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was a perfect choice.

3. The Falls by Ian Rankin

Some books we discover, others discover us. And that was the case with The Falls. I wasn’t looking for a book, but during a rainy Lakeland holiday when everyone else was reading, there seemed to be no other option. The end of this particular episode is that I have read every Rebus novel that Rankin has written, get immensely excited when he pens another and have even supped a pint in the fictional detective’s favourite pub in Edinburgh.

4. Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff; and 5. Mortal Engines by Philip Reeves

After far too many years of neglecting reading children’s books despite being a teacher, Eagle of the Ninth and Mortal Engines were both recommended by a colleague with a lot more book-sense than I had. I forget which order I read them in, but I’ve never looked back – the majority of books I read now are written for children and as a result I am far better-placed to teach reading and to make recommendations so that children find the books that they love.

6. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

My own experience of English literature at secondary school was not a positive one. I never read a whole text and if it wasn’t for my dad’s input, the Hardy Boys and Richmal Crompton’s Just William books I’d have probably stopped reading a lot sooner. The hangover of this period of time was that for years, even when I was becoming more of a reader, I staunchly avoided any books that sounded like something one would study at school. So when I finally picked up To Kill A Mockingbird and devoured it, it felt like I had truly become a reader. And with over 60 books under my belt this year, that’s what I am: a reader.

Oh, and that girl who gave me the book? Reader, I married her. And these days, I read more books than she does.

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