‘Write lots.’ Ian Rankin advises. ‘Read lots.’ Kate DiCamillo admits that when she started out to be a writer she hadn’t thought about reading. Almost every writer, when asked for advice, mentions reading. When we read, whether poetry or fiction, motoring magazines or non-fiction of any kind, we expand our repertoire, expand our horizons, absorb style and ways of solving problems, learn more about the craft.
Zadie Smith says: ‘When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.’ Some writers say that you should read anything and everything, regardless of reputation or perceived quality. Others tell you to stay only with the best. How is one to know what is the best? The best in what way? You will make your own mind up. As a teacher, you can make it possible for children to experience a good mixed diet.
In England, half term is beginning. What better time to kick your shoes off and get some reading done? Whatever you like: a comfort read, something unfamiliar, something spiky and new, something you have read before that will repay a second or third reading.
Take some time to browse. Try a charity shop or three. You will find good children’s books, sometimes, sadly, unread. This morning The Oxford Book of Wild Flowers beckoned to me [you know how we like our nature writing]. And look for unusual texts, gardening books from the 1930s, old atlases, books about words, 1950s school books. Here you will find entrancing illustrations, unexpected language, information that is new to you. Find books for the classroom and for your own desk. Read. Read. Read.