Saturday, 17 November 2012

Its a funny old world

I am just about thawing out after a few hours in a full on draught from an ever opening door in Waterstones at Carlisle. However, it would be silly to complain, as without the ever opening door there would be no customers and no book sales...so thermal undies next time. Everyone is lovely at this particular Waterstones they can't do enough for you and make you feel really welcome. It's a busy shop too, so you get to meet lots of interesting people. However, it was a bit different today because I only had a small table and to be honest until I draped my "author" sign round the table people must have thought I was just taking the weight off my feet. I had sound advice form some customers..."You want to stand over there and wait for people to come to the table to look at the books and then... pounce!" And... "you need a big table and notice saying Author signing" (well I had a small table and notice!).

I did try to engage with my "readers" by offering smiles...often across a crowded room, leaflets "would you like a leaflet I'm doing a book signing today" and bookmarks. Reactions ranged from a nervous smile back, turning to look the other way (like when people avoid the woman selling the Big Issue), taking a leaflet and running, browsing, asking for more details and avoiding the leaflet like the plague-really, I think some people thought they might catch it if they risked taking one. I love it though because it is a fertile ground for an author. The strange look,the haughty dismissal, the eccentric response and the furtive glance-are all grist for my literary mill! So beware! Next time you encounter a signing author-you may well appear as a cameo role in their next book! Oh! And that thing about Scots being mean... its rubbish because they were definitely the best purchasers today...and I had lots of chance to chat to people from Dumfries and Annan-lovely!

A more serious note-I read my copy of the NUT Teacher magazine today (old habits die hard) and was delighted to read an article about Julia Donaldson of Gruffallo fame. She surprised me by saying that she disagrees that Phonics is a cure all to literacy problems and actually dared to fly in the face of current thinking, saying that we should adopt any means necessary to allow children to learn to read. It has long been my belief that phonics is a good tool-but not for everyone! It is just one method and would be pointless to some children who innately seem to read whole words etc. It annoys me that emphasis is on one way or the other...instead of adopting all methods-in fact it all depends on the current fashion as much as anything. When I started teaching phonics was frowned upon as old fashioned (because-yes, its not actually new- guess what? Mr Gove didn't just invent it). We had something called emergent reading (by osmosis apparently) and whole word reading-where the shape of the word is recognised...then onto Letterland, Oxford Reading Tree, real books (as opposed to imitation books?), Jolly phonics, synthetic phonics, guided reading (urgh!), shared reading?! Reading for meaning and on and on... All seem to work-for some kids...so why not use what works? The day that politicians butt out of education will be a good day for teachers. Maybe then they can use their expertise and experience to guide them and allow them to choose the strategy which best fits the child! Until then, I guess they will just have to toe the educational line (or bend it a little bit-but don't tell anyone I said so!)

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