By ROWENA LEE
I have always loved to read. Growing up I was fortunate to live in a home full of books and my parents read aloud regularly.
Without doubt, English lessons were always those I looked forward to most at school and I remember stages in my life by my favourite novel at that time.
Stuart Little, Black Beauty, Little Women, Rebecca, Pride and Prejudice, The Forsyte Saga and what Virginia Woolf describes as ‘one of the few novels written for grown up people’ Middlemarch. Books were almost as important to me as friends.
After training as a teacher I found myself in small schools in country NSW and began to recognise that reading was not always universally loved or valued. I realised that whilst teaching children to read was important, inspiring them to become readers could be life-changing.
Still passionate about English literature, I enrolled in an arts degree through distance education. Here I found new delights in Australian, American and especially Victorian literature; as well as my future husband amongst the library shelves.
As a new mother, I was keen to instil a love of books and reading in our young son. So I relived the joys of Beatrix Potter and nursery rhymes and welcomed the introduction of Pamela Allen and John Burningham into our daily reading sessions.
Returning to teaching, I became even more aware of the importance of inspiring readers, not just simply teaching reading. Children having access to a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction books was important. Finding particular subjects that appealed to the more reluctant readers made an enormous difference and bringing literary characters to life could make an otherwise dry book exciting.