Every classroom should have a good stock of books for children to delve through – how else do they (not wishing to generalise) get first hand experience of literature? Not all families share obsessional reading habits, some simply do not have the time and as for visiting libraries, even schools can be immensely remiss in this. Every teacher should have a box or shelf (or in my case, almost a wall full) of sharing books, both fact and fiction and not stress too heavily if they fail to return. I am absolutely passionate about this, and claiming a lack of funding is absolutely no excuse – beg, borrow, steal (well, perhaps as an outstanding role model not so much the latter), hunt through the charity shops, add little by little as you go and soon you will see a blossoming wealth of words beyond which the finite school resources can offer.
During my last employment I sought wholesale boxed sets of used books on ebay – I possibly have one of the largest Goosebumps collections any teacher could have in their spare room. And in this, the generosity of strangers was remarkable. Often I would write to the sellers, explaining my task of widening the reading world for under privileged children, and in their kindness extra books would be added to the load, or the price dropped in donation to the cause. I genuinely have a stupid amount of books now, many thumbed through until the spines no longer hold – a large quantity of cellotape has also been used to keep my stock respectable. I can’t pretend to have read many of them – I have absolutely no interest in knowing what rainbow/pet/colour/fruit/weather fairies get up to in their narrative jaunts, but nine year old boys (yes, boys!) really seem to like them! The obvious Rowlings and Wilsons don my shelves but so do classics that I read as a child; whole hordes of Dick King-Smith, Anne Fine, the Indian in the Cupboard series, Charlotte’s Web, Wind in the Willows etc. Eoin Colfer, Anthony Horowitz, Brian Jacques, Robin Jarvis, all extend boy’s interest as well as our girls – do not underestimate the dark desire in a young female of the species, they are not adverse to a little sci-fi or warring mice! I could go on for an age. Having seen my soon to be classroom on Friday, I am not entirely sure where they will go, but this does not detract from my favourite cause.
Of course I give to charity, I would be heartless if I didn’t. But I am unlikely to donate my change to ‘chuggers’ in the street. I am much more likely to spend my pennies in the shops themselves, mainly on books and games for my own classroom. Obviously with the change in situation over the last two years I have not noticed the children’s book shelves in the quite the same manner, reserving my adolescent book buying for more ‘research’ orientated, personal gains in the slightly less charitable book shops. But the gathering switch in my brain has been triggered once more, and why not? After all, isn’t it for the ‘greater good’?! I may not have the finances currently to replace my battered copies or treat myself, but I think you will agree, my finds of late could not be missed.
Amazingly, I did not already have any of the Cressida Cowell books, but have often flicked their pages in Waterstones on dreary afternoons. Bright and funny and hugely popular (there be films don’t you know!) I think How to Train Your Dragon, How to Speak Dragonese and How to Be a Pirate will be winners on my classroom bookcases. If not? Then I will be happy to learn a little more about Norse Dragons!
Another three books, to add to the pile are stunning Julia Golding hardbacks from the Cat Royal series. Set two hundred years ago during the Georgian era, these books place Miss Cat Royal centre stage in theatrical adventures. A decent heroine and a damn good writer – having also met Julia, she is possibly one of the most naturally beautiful and glamorous ladies I have been privileged to shake hands with. I am so pleased to have The Diamond of Drury Lane, Cat Among the Pigeons and Den of Thieves in my collection but suspect I may be having a sneaky read first before offering up to the year sixes!
Last but by no means least, one for myself for a while until the glue on the classroom copy finally gives in, Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. An old favourite with me and undoubtedly one to be forced on the more able readers before long! And the grand total for all seven books? £3.75. How could I possibly argue?! I did of course round this up to a firm £4 (lets not get too crazy now) but with an ever promise of my custom, the charity shops are certainly not going to lose out – apologies to the lovely authors for a lack of royalties from these buys, but I am a poor teacher!!! As I said at the top, there is absolutely no excuse what so ever for a teacher’s room to be sparse of literature – but if I am really honest, this moral high ground I am currently preaching from, possibly with a soap box included, is something of a farce. We know all this, we know that teachers should and do open up this amazing world of books to their pupils, I simply want another excuse to buy books, and this one is ready and just. Can book buying be an addiction?!