Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Back into the groove

I'm slowly getting back into reading. I've finally finished re-reading "Watching the English" by Kate Fox for the umpteenth time; it's only 400-odd pages, but it's taken me nearly a fortnight to finish - for me that's bad. It's interesting (at least to me) how this love of books developed. Fads for how you educate your children come and go, each promising that this is the best way for your child to be reading at an early age, doing maths, science and all that jazz; at the time I was born it appears the fancy was that you left it to the professionals. My parents were both into reading; my father liked the odd historical novel as did my mother, she also went for the detective and SF stuff. If I'd shown any interest in it they'd have taught me regardless of current thought, but I didn't. As a result I never learned to read until I went to school, at that point I exploded.

The standard set of books were divided into colours I vaguely recall red, and green; the higher levels were bronze, silver, and gold. Some of the other kids had been taught by their parents, they started on the lower-level books and quickly moved on. I, of course, was stuck at the lower-levels; at least for a while. Once I'd gotten the hang of reading I flew through them. I caught up to the others and sped past, I hit the bottom tier of the higher-level books when most were still in the middle of the lower-level; it got to the point where the teachers started to worry - was I actually reading the books or just skimming them?

Normal procedure was that once you'd read a book you had to ask the teacher if you could get another, she'd normally ask a couple of questions about it and upon getting the right responses let you pick up another; I, on the other hand, got the spotlight-in-the-face treatment for every book. That got annoying, especially once I got to the book-a-day stage. Looking back I can understand why they did it, at the time though I wondered why I was getting singled-out for special treatment. After a while though they stopped asking me about the books at all, I'd get up wave the book in the general direction of the teacher and she'd just let me get another. This was getting difficult as they were running out of books. That was easy solved, I started reading ones from home and the library. Ah Enid Blyton, Franklin W. Dixon, and the like. Testing came around and they found I was ungradable; their charts only went up to a reading age of 16.

Middle school hit and I had access to their small library, cleaned that out quite quickly and went back to reading outside books, this time Agatha Christie, Isaac Asimov etc. Switched schools halfway through and during the move came across books like 1990 and I Claudius in my parents stash, didn't actually understand a lot of what was in them; I'm sure that they influenced my thinking and political leanings though.

High school was difficult; I'd read the textbooks, write an essay and pretty much recite back the book. That got me the same close scrutiny I got in First School, was I understanding what I wrote? The answer soon came back as a yes, and I in turn learned to write things in a different way to the book. Very annoying as the books are written by professionals to explain things and they wanted me to do the exactly the same sort of thing, but amateurishly. Disheartened me to the whole school process as I couldn't just flow, but had to second-guess everything I wrote. Again looking back it was a good thing that they made me do that, but I think it soured things too much, I was put on the defensive again.

Anyway enough about school, re-reading this I can see how it might appear to be bragging, I'm not, the whole point is that I read, I read a lot. My default state tends to be reading. At last count I own about 500 books, with perhaps 3 I haven't read and 1 or 2 I've given up on. I read like others breathe, I get through books like some people get through packets of crisps and annoyingly I retain vast chunks of it. As a result when I come to choose something to read that I've read before I simply place my finger on the book and think - if I can recall the plot in detail, the characters names (very hard for me), quotes, the bits that made me laugh or think; then I take my finger off it and pick another book. This not only results in a relatively good rotation, but means I can pick up a book as 'comfort food' one which I can almost recite from memory and means I don't have to actually concentrate on; it's just something to occupy my mind for a short period of time.

So why am I going on about all this? Well for starters I don't tend to write much about myself if I can help it, and I don't like writing about my friends except in generalities; so I thought I'd offer some small insight into who I am and the way I think. Also I thought I'd plug the book, that's "Watching the English" seriously worth checking out. Finally Blogger doesn't offer an easy way to update stuff in the sidebar on a regular basis and I'd really like a "Currently reading" section whereby I can just edit an entry and it'll automatically update without me having to mess with the Template continuously, on that note I'll be trying some scripts out off-line and then uploading them; so if things go awry that'll be why.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating stuff, FlipC. I hadn't heard of 'Watching the English', but will be keeping a look out for it now, thanks for that.
I had a similar experience to yours with reading at school, working my way through the Wide Range reader books quickly! Nowadays I don't read anything like as much as I would like to and have piles of books waiting to be read. I also have trouble remembering what I've read - I can finish reading a book and the next day I couldn't tell you what the story was, only whether I enjoyed it or not!
Hope you enjoy the rest of the book, and that you can get that sidebar thing worked out. I've seen those book links on others' blogs, but never worked out how to incorporate them. Good Luck! :)

FlipC said...

It's well worth the read, not as dry or technical as so many of these types of books are. Made me laugh out loud at times.

I can't imagine not reading, though as I mentioned memory can be a problem at times; case in point - I'm just reading a book at the moment and a chapter reminded me of a short story dealing with a similar theme. I just broke off and re-read the salient points of the story in my head, but I can't remember the title or the author; so now that'll bug me until I look it up.

I think I may have the sidebar worked out, in theory in should have been easy, in practice it didn't want to behave. I'll prune the script and put it up with an explanation as to it's workings soon I hope.