The Teaching Realm: An interview with Dean Boddington #10

The Reading Realm Blog Series: Educators doing extraordinary things

“I read The Demon Headmaster, The Queen’s Nose, Aquila and The Borrowers to my first classes; they always went down a treat. Now I’m an avid reader, I think my passion for books is contagious for those in my class. They know I love books and we enjoy sharing stories together…”

dean b 1Name: Dean Boddington

Twitter handle: @MisterBodd

Link to blog/website: misterbodd.wordpress.com

What is your current position?

Year One Teacher – E-Safety and Computing Lead

When, how and why did you get into education? What did/do you want to achieve?

As with many teachers, I wanted to change the world. After uni, I worked in theatre. Two particular projects pushed me towards teaching. One was a children’s show with a cast of over 200 children and it was great fun interacting with them every day. The second more serious one was working on a show about a boy who had been let down by the education system, ended up on the wrong side of the law and was killed in police custody. I wanted to help change the lives of youngsters and give them all a chance, so after a passionate discussion in a pub (that’s where most important decisions are made…) a friend suggested teaching.

How do you feel the education landscape has changed since you started in your role?

I feel that there is a much tougher scrutiny of teachers – books, observations etc. Also, the lack of funding is really becoming evident. Before it was much easier to paper the cracks, but now it’s starting to get scary!

What are your earliest memories of reading and writing?

I remember reading words from an old tobacco tin in reception. My mum recently found it and my reading record from reception – I don’t think reading was my strong point at primary. With regards to writing, I have memories of an open ended project in Year 6 to create a book. I had loads of ideas, but couldn’t do them justice, so I just remade the first picture book I could find. I was not really a fan of English all the way through school. I much prefer teaching it though.

dean b 8
The Queen’s Nose by Dick King-Smith. 

How do you try and foster a love of reading in children?

I have always loved stories and telling them, that probably comes from my drama degree. I’ve always tried to find books to share that I’m passionate about or that the kids won’t have been exposed to. As I didn’t read much as a child, I relied on television shows I loved and the related books. I read The Demon Headmaster, The Queen’s Nose, Aquila and The Borrowers to my first classes; they always went down a treat. Now I’m an avid reader, I think my passion for books is contagious for those in my class. They know I love books and we enjoy sharing stories together.

Recommending stories and having a personal bank of special books to lend to children also helps to create a ‘buzz’ around reading. My previous class (Year 3) have been my most successful project with reading for pleasure. I think I managed to get 80% of them hooked on books. I’m trying hard to find new strategies for my Year 1 children though.

dean b 3
Anthony Browne’s Gorilla always inspired great writing and inference from my Year 3 children.

What has been your most successful reading or writing lesson or activity with children?

I can’t think of the most successful lesson, but some of the best writing and reading units have been from shorter picture books – Anthony Browne’s Gorilla always inspired great writing and inference from my Year 3 children.

What advice would you give to parents whose children say they don’t like reading?

Do you read? Children can sense our feelings towards things, if we are not engaged, they may be turned off too! Bedtime stories are crucial – bribery works well too – you read a page then I’ll read the next 2 and so on (rather than – I’ll give you a fiver if you read this book).

What books do you remember from your childhood? Do you have a favourite?

As previously stated, I was a very reluctant reader as a child, but I never went anywhere without a comic. The Beano was my favourite but anything would do: The Dandy, Beezer or Topper. I’m loving that my daughter has found my old collection in the garage and she loves them too (but she’s much more of a book worm than I ever was).

dean b 4
A few years after my Dad passed away, I read And when did you last see your father? by Blake Morrison…That was a mistake.

What was the first book that made you cry?

A few years after my Dad passed away, I read And when did you last see your father? by Blake Morrison…That was a mistake. The Kite Runner knocked me for six too.

The last book that made me cry was Little Bits of Sky by S.E. Durrant, but these were tears of happiness!

What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?

If I’m honest I’ve not given these authors much of a chance to grow on me… perhaps I should. It’s been more the other way around.

What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?

Salman Rushdie’s Haroun & the Sea of Stories (published in 1990). When I was 16, a theatre director I was working with lent me the book – it’s brilliant. A boy’s mother goes missing (she leaves his dad for another man) and his storyteller dad is heartbroken and loses his gift of the gab. Some great wordplay and characters in the book; I’m surprised that so few have read it.

Have you ever experienced reader’s block? 

I’ve never given up on a child’s book, although I once read five books between starting and finishing one. It wasn’t engaging me but everyone else raved about it, so I persevered.

I have also never finished Oil!  by Upton Sinclair, which is the book which inspired the film There will be blood. It’s very long and very different to the film, but one day I’ll pick it up again…

Are you drawn to a particular genre or type of book or do you read a variety of genres?

Despite loving comedy, I much prefer more serious books. I love adventure stories or ones with a victory for good over adversity!

Although, I do think a good laugh out loud book is perfect for a class novel – comedy is better shared!

dean b 5
My daughter is obsessed with Jennifer Gray’s books.

What book are you currently reading?

Personal – Kick by Mitch Johnson. I got this early last year and for some reason it kept getting ‘kicked’ to the bottom of my reading pile. It has been well read though, it’s my most lent out book. I find all my old reluctant readers when they’re in Year 5/6 and shove a good book in their hand!

Daughter’s bed time – Guinea Pigs Online by Jennifer Gray. My daughter is obsessed with Jennifer Gray’s books. We started on the Atticus Claw series, then Ermine, now we’re on Guinea Pigs Online. She’s loving it (it’s giving me chances to do some great voices too!).

Where’s your favourite place to read?

On my sofa on a Saturday morning whilst my kids snuggle up to me and watch Cbeebies. Although I do have to stop and watch ‘Hey Duggee’.

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Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival.

Which books do you think have tackled the issues of diversity and difference particularly well?

I’m a big fan of what @Knightsof are trying to achieve. Knights and Bikes by Gabrielle Kent and Rex Crowle is superb!

Also the Tom Percival picture books Ruby’s Worry and Perfectly Norman. I’ve got a feeling that these will become staples with every class for a long time!

Which three books would you recommend to primary/ secondary school aged children and why?

Firstly, the Podkin trilogy by Kieran Larwood…They are just phenomenal and I can’t rave about them enough. You get completely sucked into the story and the Five Realms. I’m getting withdrawal symptoms waiting for the fourth book!

Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen is another piece of brilliance. It is set in Tower hamlets, London and is a fantastic sci-fi adventure. One of my favourites!

My daughter and I love the Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre books. My personal favourite is Jinks and O’Hare – Funfair Repair, purely because it’s fun and engaging.

Finally: in one sentence, what does reading for pleasure mean to you?

Reading because you want to! It can be fifty-two books in a year or one book a year, it’s your choice. I hate enforced reading – I remember hating reading because it was forced upon me at school. I know I would have liked it, but I could be very stubborn when being forced to do something I didn’t want to!

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