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Sally Court

Sally Court

  • Date Joined: 30 May 2008

National Year of Reading and holiday thoughts

Posted by Sally Court on 30 May 2008 at 11:28 AM

I have just come back from a long awaited holiday, a journey that I have wanted to experience for many years.  A trip down the Nile stopping off at all the temples and tombs set along the river bank. It was all a bit overwhelming to begin with, a mass of humanity from the 350+ cruise boats all with the same agenda packed into the tiny areas of shade listening to their guides.  My mind became muddled.  Were we talking about Gods or Pharaohs or Pharaohs that were also Gods? 

The facts were coming out thick and fast and hardly sinking in and it was becoming tedious. And then at the Temple of Horus our guide, Amin, decided on a different approach.  Factual overload had glazed our eyes under the intense sun so he decided to illustrate the very complex dynastic history by telling a story instead.  We were riveted. Yes now we were enthralled with the God Family of two brothers, one good, one evil, and two sisters, intermarried (oh yes sex and marriage between brothers and sisters was condoned and encouraged!) and the son of the good brother. Jealousy, revenge, sex, blood and gore, war and peace. It was all there in the telling. Suddenly it all slotted into place and it was so much more interesting than a dry boring list of facts.  I now know why Osiris (the good brother) became the God of the underworld and his magnificent wife, Isis, represents motherhood and fertility.  The evil brother Set, the God of disorder and his wife, the good Nephtees who joined ranks with Isis, her sister, to bring down her wicked husband.  And Horus the son of Osiris and Isis with his fascinating conception, a bit too complex and grisly to go into here.  Oh yes I could really get into this.   Stories to make you sit on the edge of your seat offset with wonderful humour. 

This turned into a memorable holiday and there are some amusing stories that I will remember for a very long time.  What's better is that I can add my own tales of what happened to me during this fortnight and make it a very personal story.  The myths and legends wrapped up in real time.  It has the makings of a good book, perhaps?  But I think Agatha Christie has beaten me here with "Death on the Nile".

And of course, this is what the National Year of Reading is all about.  Getting children and adults to pick up a book, comic or newspaper and start to discover, or rediscover the true enjoyment of reading.  Providing the support and encouragement for readers and non-readers of all ages throughout the country via a multitude of innovative methods.  The idea is to catch and make a "reader" by what ever method is appropriate.  And some of those methods may not be obvious!  Hence the garden.  A great many of us need to be stimulated by story-telling which can bring history, geography and even mathematics alive.  Others of us prefer factual rather than fiction.  But what ever catches our imaginations and persuades us to start reading is to be encouraged.  Especially at an early age.  You never know what little act or passing comment could stimulate any one us to pick up a comic, newspaper or book.  And get us addicted to the written word.   This is a healthy addiction that could lead to obsession.  It could be a jolly good yarn about our favourite football star or a fictional hero.  It maybe factual but written so well it becomes mesmerising and could even influence the way your life turns out.  Some stories are so good you can hardly put them down, others are comforting and help when we are struggling with our lives.   But many of us need help to get into reading.  A parent with a love of the written word with time to read to their children and listen to them reading back. A good teacher or librarian with a deal understanding or a grandparent with a wealth of remembered anecdotes - it only takes one person with the right enlightenment and a child will have a love of the spoken and written word for life.

I believe I was one of the lucky ones.   My parents read to me every night prior to going to sleep. My elder sister always had her nose in a book and would often be caught with a torch under the bedclothes as she couldn't put her book down as it was so riveting. One of my teachers at primary school in the Yorkshire Dales illustrated what could be dull historical facts by regaling us with stories of the Romans and local people of the period and even got the class to build a pastry Hadrian's wall.  (Actually I think we ate a lot this before it was built.) Wow this was different and never to be forgotten. It was stimulating. It all changed when my family moved south at my next primary and secondary school.   Teaching was by rote.  Bland and forgettable.  As were the teachers. It could have been disastrous as I am slightly dyslexic and have an appalling ability to learn by heart and regurgitate passages or poems. I put my mother through the mill every time a poem had to be learnt for  homework, I just couldn't do it.  This problem has never left me.  At this stage I could have turned my back on words but I was already captivated.  It took time for me to read with confidence especially out loud in front of the class.  The schools did not have patience and gave little encouragement.  My Eng Lit teacher told me that I would never do well in my exams.  My Eng Lang teacher told me I "murdered the English Language".  Well despite their lack of faith in my abilities I got a straight A for my English Literature O level and a good grade C for English Language.  I only came out with 5 O levels but the other three were As and Bs.  Exams were a real struggle throughout my schooling and further education but I persevered. I am a fighter and if the odds are stacked against me then I just refuse to be beaten. And I always had the support of my family. I now have 2 published books (with 2 more simmering away in the background) to my name and many written articles for magazines and newspapers, which is more than my English teachers ever achieved.  Just goes to show that with the right encouragement, my parents and a primary school teacher, at an early age adversity can be overcome.  I loved stories both told and read, especially adventures and became a bookworm. A book always within my reach.  I still have to take a raft books with me where ever I go (8 to Egypt and I read 5 of them) and have to read every night prior to sleeping, obviously a good throwback to my childhood.

And now I have come back to real life and have to make sure that the garden is on course......more next week.

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