The Teaching Realm: An interview with Louise Hannon #14

The Reading Realm Blog Series: Educators doing extraordinary things

“I remember loving writing stories in school and at home, usually adventure stories I think. I found one of them recently when we were clearing out the loft and read them to my two eldest, who actually seemed almost impressed!”

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Find out more about Louise here!

Name: Louise Hannon

Twitter handle: @Louisehannon58

Link to blog/website:  www.louisehannonliteracy.co.uk

What is your current position? 

Freelance primary reading consultant.

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

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher from an early age. I completed a primary PGCE straight after my degree in English, both at Leeds University. I loved my PGCE although I did cry a lot during my teaching placements- ha! Long hours and feeling very out of my depth but I learnt so much. I became a teacher because I loved being around children but was also very interested in education and the difference it could make to people’s lives. I was particularly passionate about working with children who were from areas of deprivation.

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

It might be an obvious answer, but I really feel the pressure has increased on teachers (and children) with more high stakes testing starting earlier, packed timetables and all the data and assessment that is now expected. Widespread use of emails also enable teachers to be contactable constantly outside of working hours. I have fond memories on a Friday afternoon ‘golden time’ sitting with some of my year 1 children colouring in and chatting with them and letting them tell me things that were important to them. Sadly, I don’t feel that teachers get much time to just chat and be with their children anymore because we are so pressed for time and focused too much on interventions and outcomes.

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“I can remember my Mum reading James and the Giant Peach to the three of us in the back as we drove down through France on holidays. “

What are your earliest memories of reading and writing?

I can remember my Mum reading James and the Giant Peach to the three of us in the back as we drove down through France on holidays. I remember loving writing stories in school and at home, usually adventure stories I think. I found one of them recently when we were clearing out the loft and read them to my two eldest, who actually seemed almost impressed!

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

By sharing great books with them and making time for reading a priority every day. I often would bring in my special book bag or box from home that I would tell the children contained some brilliant books I really loved and they could choose from for class story. This was really popular and I think the influence of a teacher who clearly loves reading and is very enthusiastic about books is very powerful.

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

Running fortnightly class book clubs (in teaching time) has been really successful and allowed children time to read what and how they want. It also meant there was time for talking about and recommending books in a more informal way.

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

I think my advice would be to not make too big a deal of it and suggest they just haven’t found the right book yet? Also, do they not like reading because they are relating it to learning to read/ having to read out loud? In which case, fair enough, learning to read is a really challenging task! I would keep reading out loud/practise time pretty short and sweet and instead read to them a lot and have lots of audiobooks on the go in the car. I also think reading needs to be viewed in a pretty broad sense- reading online, reading comics/graphic novels/ reading on a kindle/ reading Captain Underpants – this is all reading! I think it’s important not to be ‘book snobby’ and view some choices as less valid.

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The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

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

Enid Blyton books stand out as a pretty clear favourite.  From The Magic Faraway Tree to the Secret Seven series, I got totally lost in those and have really enjoyed reading them all over again to my own children.

What was the first book that made you cry?

To be honest, I really can’t remember, but more recently Wonder by R. J Palacio, The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness all made me cry. All three are brilliant books I would wholeheartedly recommend.

What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?

I have to confess I’ve never been a huge Michael Morpurgo fan, but then I read Flamingo Boy last summer on holiday and loved it. I completely fell for the characters and still eighteen months on I often think about them. I think that’s a sign of a good book!

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“I read Flamingo Boy last summer on holiday and loved it.”

Have you ever experienced reader’s block? 

I generally always want to read and have a vaguely unsettled feeling if I haven’t got a book on the go or am really not enjoying my current one. But I do sometimes give up on a book if a few chapters in I’m really not into it. I don’t feel any guilt about doing that anymore. The way I view it is there are so many amazing books I want to read in my lifetime that I don’t want to waste time on something that I’m not enjoying. I’m a firm believer in the right to not finish a book (‘The Rights of the Reader’ by Daniel Pennac) and very much advocate these rights for children too. Oh, and I do like to re-read my absolute favourites too!

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

I think I’m definitely drawn to fiction- usually drama, often historical drama or realistic fiction. I love the magical realism genre like Isabel Allende novels too- she is one of my favourite authors. But I have also enjoyed some biographies and short stories and I love reading blogs and house magazines. I rarely read science fiction, poetry or graphic novels.

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What book are you currently reading?

I’ve just started The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson, which I’m already enjoying and before that I read Transcription by Kate Atkinson. I try and alternate between reading a children’s book and an adult book.

Where’s your favourite place to read?

In bed or on a sun-lounger on holiday- the sun-lounger much more rarely now I’ve got three children!

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

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“laugh out loud silliness.”

Anything by Shirley Hughes for sheer nostalgia, out of this world illustrations and her ability to evoke so vividly the details of daily childhood life,

Once, Then or Now by Morris Gleitzman (yes, I’m cheating!) are ‘must have’ books to understand some of the awful things that the human race have done to each other and to also see amazing bravery and friendship in the face of fear and evil. So cleverly written too.

Lastly, You’re a Bad Man Mr Gum by Andy Stanton for laugh out loud silliness.

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

The opportunity to experience pure escapism and contentment as well as the ability to learn so much about the world and other people different from yourself.

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