#blogsync is back this Summer inspired by Tom Sherrington's (@headguruteacher) blog post. I felt that I could add a little to the topic and so here is my life in books (so far)...
(click here for all of the excellent posts in this months #blogsync)
My 1st ever book was probably one that many people started off with - 'Letterland'! I can remember having this book at home and reading it to my younger brother and sister. The characters were what made the book and I'm still amazed at how many of them I can remember, still, just shy off my 30th birthday. Here's a little challenge for you...how many of the 26 alliterative characters can you name?
...and my personal favourite, as he represented my first initial, Peter Puppy!
Sadly, after this there was a massive lull in me reading books. At a young age (all the way up to studying for my English GCSEs) I just wasn't into reading. I didn't read much at all, I was never really encouraged to read and (to my knowledge) not many of my friends read either. I'm almost jealous now, when considering how much I know my sister read when she was younger and the amount of books she had on her bedroom shelves. The only real books I had/read as a boy were the Panini football sticker books and the odd 'Match' or 'Shoot' magazine from my dad's newsagents.
Something started to change when I was studying for my English GCSEs. As to the reasons behind this? I can only think of two...
1) My English teacher - Mrs Green
2) the fact we had to study a novel as part of the GCSE course
Coupled with an inspirational teacher, who led me to enjoy English above most other subjects at secondary school (yes, even above Mathematics), and the fact we had to read a book in order to succeed in our GCSEs I, for the first time since 'Letterland' enjoyed reading again. Now, I bet you're all wondering what book I was told to read? 'The Lord of the Rings'? 'To Kill a Mockingbird'? 'Of Mice and Men'? I'm afraid not. I did, however, read 'Of Mice and Men' a couple of years ago when working as a Cover Supervisor as so many of the students were reading it in their English lessons and I felt I should know about it so I could actually be of some help when covering their English lessons! I liked it, enjoyed it and weirdly could only picture Lenny's character as Michael Clarke Duncan's 'John Coffey' from 'The Green Mile' (I've never seen the film version of 'Of Mice and Men').
So, what book did I read for my GCSEs? Susan Hill's 'I'm the King of the Castle'.
The themes in the book obviously connected with me in someway back then? I was engaged by the 4 main characters - Kingshaw, Hooper, Mrs Kingshaw and Mr Hooper. I loathed Mrs Kingshaw, felt Mr Hooper was pathetic, felt sorry for Kingshaw and just wanted Hooper to get what was coming to him. The childhood bullying explored in the book, the weak parenting, sense of horror and the vivid scenery portrayed all made it enjoyable to read and kept me wanting to read more and more of the book.
I remember having different coloured paperclips inserted into the tops of key pages in the books all linked to different themes that we could have been asked about in the book. I had annotations all over my copy and researched lots of reviews/opinions etc on the book in order to prepare for my GCSE. I don't know how successful I'd be these days now you're not allowed to take an annotated copy of the book into the exams?
This book will always be the first that truly got me into reading. However, I still from that point on, up until starting my teacher training didn't read for 'pleasure'. I read as a necessity - for College and for University. I didn't buy books unless I needed them to pass my relevant courses.
The next real set of books I had to purchase were for my Degree in Psychology and Education Studies. I bought a fair few of the recommended books for my course and read each one, referencing them where appropriate and needed in essays I was asked to write. Here's a few of the books I read...
Towards the end of my degree, and up to starting my teacher training, I did dabble in reading for 'pleasure'. Again, this came out of intrigue more than a desire to get something to read. A colleague of mine, back when I worked one of the office jobs, on my 1st day being shown round the offices, explained the recent re-naming of their meeting rooms. One such room was named 'The Da Vinci Room'. Now, being naive and (still quite young compared to the rest of the workforce) I just thought this was because of the artist and didn't know anything about Dan Brown's book. So, perhaps with a need to 'fit in' to my new place of work, I bought Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code'.
I really enjoyed the book; the puzzles, the links to pieces of art I had heard of and maybe just because I was, for the first time, reading something that I didn't really need to read. Having read 'The Da Vinci Code' I then sought out the rest of Dan Brown's books and read 'Angels and Demons' (my favourite one - loved the ambigrams etc [didn't enjoy the film as much]), 'Digital Fortress' and 'Deception Point'. I'm yet to read the more recent books, 'Inferno' and 'The Lost Symbol', although I do own both.
Starting my teaching career is what really started me reading for 'pleasure', rather than having to or feeling I should. I worked as a Cover Supervisor for two years while I finished my degree and applied to get on my GTP. Throughout this time I wanted knowledge! I wanted to read everything and anything I could to give me as many ideas, thoughts, strategies, puzzles, theories etc that I could. I wanted to be prepared for teaching and I wanted to know how to do it and ultimately what would make me an outstanding teacher.
As such, for my birthdays, Christmases and just when I really wanted one, I requested all sorts of books all aimed at trying to make me as good a teacher as I could be. I set up an Amazon wish list and constantly updated this for my close relatives to kindly choose from for me. This has been ongoing all the way through my teacher training and up to the present day. Our bookcase at home is full of books I have bought, read and have helped me become the teacher I am today. I've even been lucky enough to have endorsed 2 of these books and have recently been sent initial drafts of books that publishing companies are keen for me to read and review. Never, as a teenager, would I have thought I'd be doing this!
Here's my current shelf (some books are missing as they've been lent to colleagues or Hannah's reading them and god knows where they've found themselves)...
From a Mathematics point of view, Mike Ollerton's 'Getting the Buggers to Add up' and (new) '100 ideas for Outstanding Mathematics Lessons' [Out August 28th] are the two that have taught me the most and have given me some fantastic ideas to use in class. The 'Getting the Buggers to Add Up' book is one that was lent to me by one of my current colleagues when I was working as a Cover Supervisor and helped a lot in setting me up for my teacher training. The 100 Ideas book is one I have read very recently and read previously when the original edition was out. I was thrilled to have been asked to read and review the latest version and found it as brilliant as the original edition, but with new ideas and additional information on how to implement the ideas in class and possible extensions to the ideas it has got even better.
The other book I was asked to read and review was when I was doing my GTP. Having read her previous book 'How to be An Amazing Teacher', Caroline Bentley-Davies asked me to write a short paragraph for her 'Outstanding Lessons' Pocketbook. It was something, when on my GTP, I was surprised at being asked to do, but Caroline thought it'd be good to get a new teacher's perspective on her book and I found so many ideas in that book that helped me improve as a trainee and eventually get my 'outstanding' judgement for my GTP year. I will be investing in her 'How to be An Amazing Middle Leader' when the time comes to get a bit of inspiration/advice when furthering my career.
Of the other books on the shelf, Jim Smith's 'Lazy Teacher' book was one I bought on the back of receiving an INSET session at my school from him. The session was fantastic and his book complemented his approach. Paul Ginnis' 'The Teacher's Toolkit' is one that a colleague has on her desk and on observing one of her lessons for the 1st time as a Cover Supervisor asked her about the book, that I happened to see on her desk, and subsequently purchase it due to the wonderful things she had to say about it and the few pages she showed me from it. More recently @teachertoolkit's '100 Ideas for Outstanding Lessons' has (to name one way) helped me engage my students in more purposeful and engaging homework tasks through his #takeawayhomework idea. See my blog posts here and here about this.
All the other books on that shelf have helped me in one way or another throughout my teaching career to date and I am thankful to all of the authors for their work.
The final few books I would like to mention are those that I have on a shelf in my classroom. The reason they are there is that I hope my students are as inspired by them as I have been. They are there for my students to see and read as they please. Some of my tutees have read parts of them, during 'World Book Day' I read parts of them to each class and drew students' attention toward them. They are...
this and Ian Stewart's other book below, check out his '17 equations that Changed the World'
Alex's Adventures in Numberland', which we were encouraged to do by our school's library staff.
I never thought that I would become such an avid reader. I now find myself looking for the next book that can help me or interest me in some way or another; the next book that can help me improve my practice. I now look forward to new books being released. Moreover, I want to write a book of my own. I want to pen a book that will help others, like my trainee self that benefited so much from the works of others, I want to be able to inspire the next set of trainee teachers and experienced teachers alike. I've even thought about writing my own children's books aimed at introducing them to Mathematics at a young age. These, of course, are all hopes and dreams for now, but someday in the future - perhaps when I have a bit more experience, I'd love to have my name on the front cover of a book, rather than on the back!
I hope you've found this blog post interesting. Please check out the other #blogsync entries for this month as each person's experience of reading is different and the collection of books that have inspired them along the way unique.
Please feel free to comment below, or tweet me @mrprcollins. Oh, and good luck getting all 26 'Letterland' characters - no 'Googling' allowed!