The Reading Realm Blog Series: Educators doing extraordinary things
“I think that some of my most successful reading and writing lessons have been the spontaneous ones. Those where I’ve gone off-plan and let things flow either from the children, from something in the news, even from the weather and where I’ve felt confident to let that happen…”
Name: Linda Eagleton
What is your current position?
Having retired from primary school teaching after 38 years, I now volunteer in a local primary school. In that 38 years, I also had 3 children so did private tuition and supply teaching in-between. I spent the last 25 years working in a small village school, where there were mixed-age classes and ended my career teaching a class of EYFS, Year 1 and Year 2 in the mornings with Year 3 joining us in the afternoons – a first for me, especially as I spent the majority of my career teaching Years 4,5 and 6!
When, how and why did you get into education? What did/do you want to achieve?
I always wanted to be a teacher. As a child, I had a blackboard and either ‘taught’ my dolls and teddies or took turns to be the teacher with the other children in the small close where I lived. I had some work-place experience when I was in the Lower Sixth and went onto Teacher Training College. Although I was offered a place to go on to doing a B.Ed, I was about to get married and opted for that instead. At times, I have regretted that I don’t have a degree but not getting married so young. I simply wanted to have a class of engaged children who enjoyed school and hopefully achieved as much as they could – I was very ‘green’ when I began teaching but did my best to try to keep to this ideal – it wasn’t always easy!
How do you feel the education landscape has changed since you started in your role?
There’s a saying in teaching that if you stay on the wheel long enough it will go round and round. When I started teaching we used topics, phonics was used in reading and there seemed few outside influences affecting the child’s education. Over time, individual subjects became the norm and phonics was no longer in vogue. By the time I retired 5 years ago, there was a mixture of teaching methods, phonics was in favour again, the amount of paperwork and target setting was ridiculous and teachers also needed to be to social workers for many children and families.
What are your earliest memories of reading and writing?
I remember my mum reading to me at home, me looking at books and reading at school standing by the teacher’s desk. I remember Enid Blyton and I still have The Lady and the Tramp book which I read to my granddaughter. I can remember using the blackboard and chalk to write all sorts of things and those wide lined books in school when you wrote about what happened at the weekend.
How do you try and foster a love of reading in children?
I used to talk to the class about the books I was reading or books my children were enjoying. I’d bring books in from home or comics and if a child expressed an interest in reading them they could borrow it. Sometimes, when they’d done this, they’d talk about it with another child and it would be loaned again. A child might bring in a book and I’d ask if I could read it. We always shared a class book and often some children would bring their own copy into school and share with a friend to follow along. We’ve always read books with our granddaughter and now that’s she’s just starting to read we can share books together.
What has been your most successful reading or writing lesson or activity with children?
I think that some of my most successful reading and writing lessons have been the spontaneous ones. Those where I’ve gone off-plan and let things flow either from the children, from something in the news, even from the weather and where I’ve felt confident to let that happen.
What advice would you give to parents whose children say they don’t like reading?
I’d say to encourage the child to read anything that interests them, maybe linked to a hobby or sport – a magazine, a comic, a sports programme – it doesn’t have to be a book. Don’t make reading a chore and if it helps, share the reading. On top of this, continue to read books to them – it’s a great thing to do.
What books do you remember from your childhood? Do you have a favourite?
I don’t remember many books from my childhood, apart from Malory Towers by Enid Blyton and various classics such as Kidnapped. I remember in senior school reading Chaucer’s Tales because my granddad gave me a copy. At college, I discovered The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
What was the first book that made you cry?
I don’t know if it was the first book that made me cry, but I do remember being on holiday, sitting in the sunshine by the pool, absolutely crying my eyes out several times reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy – marvellous books and several years on they still have that power.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that. There are books and authors I’ve enjoyed more than others, but if I’m really not enjoying the book, I move on to something else.
Have you ever experienced reader’s block?
I’ve not experienced that as I’ve always got a book on the go and the next one lined up.
Are you drawn to a particular genre or type of book or do you read a variety of genres?
I have an eclectic taste, but particularly enjoy historical novels, adventure and detective stories. Following the Michael Portillo programmes, I even bought a copy of Bradshaw’s Railway Guide!
What book are you currently reading?
I’ve just started Robert Galbriath’s (aka J.K. Rowling) The Silkworm and am thoroughly enjoying it.
Where’s your favourite place to read?
I can read anywhere – once I’m involved in a book, I’m in my own little world.
Which three books would you recommend to primary school aged children and why?
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen – a lovely book with lots of repetition, easy for a young child to join in and enjoy.
Any books by Roald Dahl – timeless classics with a great sense of humour.
The Firework-maker’s Daughter by Philip Pullman – an adventure story written by a master.
Finally: in one sentence, what does reading for pleasure mean to you?
Reading for pleasure means I can relax and escape by using my imagination.