This is a tribute to those people who helped spark my love of books by reading aloud to me.
First and foremost – my granny. She read aloud really well, having a beautiful, deep voice slightly roughened by smoking. I vividly recall her reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgeson Burnett, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green and Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, sitting on the end of my bed as part of the bedtime routine, when she came to stay while we were living in Zambia. I can close my eyes, feel the slight pressure of the bedsheets tugging and hear her husky voice as I listened spellbound with the cool night air and the crickets sawing in the background. I could have listened to her all night…
I was also lucky enough to have a number of teachers who read aloud to our class. Mrs Parry read us stories about the Greek myths from a huge, foxed book that had me combing the library looking for more stories like those ones – and stumbling across an edition with some fairly graphic illustrations, when aged eight.
Miss Allson read The Pearl by John Steinbeck and I recall struggling not to cry when we reached the passage involving poor little Coyotito near the end. It was the first time I recall a story that so starkly examined racism and the sheer unfairness of poverty.
On a much lighter note, Miss Jorden read us the wonderful stories featuring Don Camillo, the hot-headed village priest and his regular run-ins with the equally hot-headed mayor Peppone, written by Giovannino Guareschi. I managed to get hold of these books years later and although I enjoyed the TV series, I still far prefer the ironic tone of the books. I, again, can close my eyes and hear Miss Jordon’s gentle voice pattering around the room on a sleepy afternoon and smell the classroom scents of chalkdust, ink and learning.
Mr Crawford read Animal Farm by George Orwell to us and a selection of poetry, which he recited beautifully, managing to imbue the likes of Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night’ and ‘Roman Wall Blues’ by W.H. Auden with passion and understanding.
I recall being entranced by Mrs Jefford’s rendition of Rosemary Sutcliffe’s Eagle of the Ninth, furiously drawing black and white doodles as I drank in every word… I don’t know if teachers regularly read aloud to children older than eleven, these days. I hope they do.
So I want to voice my gratitude to all the adults who read aloud to me all those years ago. Although I was one of those children who effortlessly learnt to read at a very early age, it mattered to hear other people read aloud to me, opening me up to literature I probably would never have otherwise encountered. Thank you…
I have always made an effort to pass on the baton, having read to both my children until they got to a point they’d rather I didn’t. And now I read aloud, sometimes until my voice goes, to both grandchildren who love listening to all sorts of adventure stories.
Who read to you when you were a child? What did they read? Do you read aloud to anyone in your life? I’d love to hear from you…