During one of our first Christmases Mr Bookwagon and I agreed to watch a film the other loved, that would be outside of our comfort zone. Mr Bookwagon was persuaded to watch the 1995 version of ‘Persuasion‘, starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds. I watched ‘The Searchers’.
Mr Bookwagon has been watching ‘The Searchers’ religiously for many years. He can describe the lighting contrasts, how shadow has been used allegorically, how the story is a parable. I have watched ‘The Searchers’ once.
Recently, writer Lucy Mangan wrote in ‘The Guardian’ about her childhood reading habits. She revisited ‘Milly Molly Mandy’ by Joyce Lankester Brisley, first published in 1928, and set in the south-east of England, around the author’s home in Bexhill-on-Sea. Lucy Mangan read and reread these stories as a child. I loved these stories too, and like Lucy Mangan followed the series. Lucy Mangan: My Life as a Bookworm. Lucy Mangan compares her reading to her 6- year old son’s. She wonders that he does not reread, as she did.
Rereading and rereading
Re-reading is essential. When I trained, we spent a lot of time learning about the mechanics of how a reader is formed. We tracked readers’ behaviour with exhaustive, intricate running records, full of clues and matching symbols. There was delight when a reader would retrace his/her reading. This was the moment we knew they were looking to make sense from the page.
We are naturally geared to read at pace. Our brain anticipates what is to come, while our eyes and mouth (if we’re reading aloud) catch up and confirm. Reading at pace is another behaviour that a reading trained teacher looks for. The reader might track, most often with a finger, and then retrace rereading and working to make sense and confirm what he/she sees. It demonstrates the reader’s desire for meaning of his/her actions.
I was trained to encourage parents to avoid stopping at individual words when their child read aloud. It was considered a priority that the parent encouraged his/her child forward, offering words quickly and quietly to avoid lulls, delighting in their progress and the fact their child was reading. At the conclusion of the book, we would suggest parent and child reviewed a few words or a selected obstructive section, checking them through gently. These actions and behaviour would be repeated in future reading, and with other books.
However, it was always about reading, pace, sense, building literacy, skills and joy. We were taught that by isolating reading into a word by word assessment, teachers and parents risked destroying a child’s confident reading development.
This was entirely separate from the desired interaction of bedtime reading.
Very young readers, fortunate to be in a bookloving household, form attachments with certain books. They demand that these books are read repeatedly. They participate in the story reading. The story must be read in a certain way- the way they know. They anticipate, join in, correct perceived errors, draw their reading companion’s attention to places that fascinate, or about which they feel confident.
Later your very young reader could be found reading their book alone. At that point, they may follow the text with a finger, reading aloud using a similar inflection to that they experienced. They might repeat the text, and point out sections to an imaginary co-reader. This behaviour is reading. It is a crucial first step in becoming a reader.
Continuing to reread
As confident readers, we acquire favourite books, authors and series into which we retreat and reread. Our choices offer comfort and certainty. Many readers offer classic series such as C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books, or J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ as rereading choices. I reread series including K.M.Peyton’s ‘Flambards’, ‘Anne of Green Gables’, Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’, Susan Coolidge’s ‘What Katy Did’, Tessa Duder’s ‘Alex’ and Ethel M. Turner’s series, ‘Seven Little Australians’. I reread the stories of Colette and the short stories of Katherine Mansfield. As an adult, I reread books by Anne Tyler or Ann Patchett.
Comfort and certainty charge our humanity through confirmation of the pleasure in and meaning available from reading.
Series (serious) rereading recommendations
Recently, Mr Bookwagon read the latest Robin Stevens’ Wells & Wong mystery- A Spoonful of Murder This tight, meticulously researched series, is a huge favourite of our readers. Many children read and reread Daisy and Hazel’s adventures so they are able to recall and recite their adventures, and predict future developments. Rereading offers certainty that informs plotting and characterisation.
I received the sequel to The Apprentice Witch delightedly last week. I love Arianwyn, James Nicol’s central character. I imagine her like Susan Coolidge’s Katy Carr – ‘in spite of her age and size, she was as heedless and innocent as a child of six.’ A Witch Alone lives up to its predecessor. I shall reread it, looking for clues. At its conclusion, I was compelled to message the writer anticipating the story’s progress.
We look forward to further titles in the ‘15 Things NOT to-‘ series. These imaginative, amusing titles for very young readers, include complex text and ideas to fascinate- 15 things NOT to do with a Granny. I imagine possible discussions after sharing these titles, with readers suggesting other things ‘NOT to do’.
Jim Field is best known for the highly successful ‘Oi’ series (omitted from our independent bookshop because we cannot compete with its pricing at chainstores or supermarkets). We champion the titles co-created with Julian Gough, for their intelligent humour, originality and insight. The latest in this series is Rabbit & Bear Attack of the Snack.
Bookwagon has revelled upon Wild Animals of the North. Dieter Braun returns with the equally addictive Wild Animals of the South that has every reader reading, rereading, retelling and researching. Flying Eye publishing’s is commendably determined to create quality non-fiction picture books.
Serious (but highly enjoyable) rereading recommendations
Award-winning American writer, Laura Amy Schlitz is little known in Britain. I am delighted to introduce her latest, lauded title to Bookwagon. The Princess and the Crocodile is a story of initiative and charm, already beloved by our readers. One customer contacted us to share that her child insisted on carrying this title everywhere they had travelled during a half term holiday break of visiting family at either end of the country!
Frida Nilsson’s The Ice Sea Pirates is one of the best adventure stories for children I have read. It is fearless and genuinely scary and demands to be reread. I will seek readers with whom to share it . When you reread you are eager to share and talk about the experience. ‘The Ice Sea Pirates‘ was an adventure I was lucky enough to read ahead of Mr Bookwagon. He was quick to seize Padraig Kenny’s Tin. Mr Bookwagon burned the midnight oil, determined to discover Christopher’s fate. ‘Tin‘ is one of my co-director’s favourite titles. He is adamant there must be a sequel.
We invite you to share the titles to which you returned as a child, and those your child returns to, also. Which are the favourites that we reread?
Happy reading (and rereading!)