tes.co.ukstaffroom

24th February 2006 at 00:00
Bill Hicks finds posters who are happiest curled up at home with the children's books

It was half-term. We were still at work, but most of you were not - or at least, not at school. Large numbers of you were still using the TES forums, however. You were discussing work, yes. But some of you were on to a subject dear to my heart: books.

I remember that, at 19, I wanted to be an English teacher because I'd be paid to read books, then talk about them. Then have more time to read more books in all those weeks of holiday. Luckily for me and the nation's youth, I never became a proper teacher. I soon realised how much work was involved, and drifted towards journalism instead. This was in the 70s, since when teachers' workload has surely doubled. Do you still have time to read books at all, let alone for pleasure?

The question is rhetorical, and the answer is "yes". We've known that for sure since we started the TES Book Club forum last summer, but it's still gratifying to see teachers parading their bibliomaniacal tendencies right across the boards; even, sometimes, in the English forum.

A totally unscientific trawl of Book Club threads revealed that Harry Potter has most mentions (34) although his author JK Rowling is named only eight times, against 22 mentions of Philip Pullman. Across all forums, Dickens (404 mentions) still has a comfortable lead over Pullman (209), Tolkien (202), Orwell (201) and JK Rowling (124). Dan Brown is way down the chart with 98 mentions. To put these into an Eng Lit perspective, Shakespeare has 2,116 namechecks.

But enough of these damned, lying statistics! It seems that the authors most enjoyed this half-term have been Jodi Picoult for My Sister's Keeper and Salem Falls, with Carol Shields, Lionel Shriver, Khaled Hosseini, and Alice Sebold in hot pursuit.

Seiglinde, meanwhile, was canvassing for "the book you most hated reading"

- a fascinating thread from which poor William Golding emerged with his reputation in tatters. Silkywave spoke for many: "Had to read Lord of the Flies at school (all about boring little savage boys). It was one of the books selected for GCSE only a couple of years ago. Can't they think of anything new?"

Seren_dipity was just as caustic about The Catcher in the Rye, while chatters was by no means the only poster to shudder at the memory of Hardy:

"Jude the Obscure. Blinkin' 'eck... all he did was walk and moan. Took me a year to finish it."

Let's move on swiftly to a more uplifting thread: planespotter's "Am I the only one who reads children's books?" No, planespotter - you who were so impressed by The Fire-eaters by David Almond - you are not alone. Dozens of posters rushed to confirm their admiration for authors targeting younger age groups.

Here was Hedge666: "I probably read more children's books than I do adult books in order to keep up with what the Year 7s and 8s are reading.

Recently read Looking for JJ, which was great, and Noughts and Crosses."

While raggedblossom confessed: "Kids' lit is practically all I read these days. How about How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. I buy stuff then take it in for the kids when I've read it (I teach English)."

Over in Opinion they've got round to Dostoevsky and Proust, but I think I'll stay here in the TES Book Club.

Follow these threads at www.tes.co.ukstaffroom

* Opinion: Half term's happened - how many of you got ill?

* Behaviour: Energy boost drinks

* Opinion: Cadet Forces in state schools

* Secondary: Is there a formula for school trip tragedies?

* Primary: Three billy goats gruff literacy

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website

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