lush vegetation

... lush vegetation

Like many Kindle newbies I began with a childhood favourite that was available as a free download. I chose “Coral Island” by RM Ballantyne. Just seeing the title invokes images of lush vegetation, deep pink coral, the sensation of swimming in warm, clear seas full of exotically coloured fish, gentle tropical breezes …

It also took me back to the first time I encountered the book during the last two years of junior school.

At the end of afternoon playtime on a Friday we returned (all 41 of us) to our prefabricated classroom and went to our places. We had finished work for the week and our school books had been stowed away under the lids of our old-fashioned wooden desks. We looked forward to spending this last half hour sitting quietly at our desks whilst Mr Stevens, our class teacher, read to us in his gentle West Country accent.

Lorna Doone (book cover)He invariably chose Victorian classics. As well as “Coral Island” there was “Treasure Island”, “Black Beauty”, “Lorna Doone” and “Children of the New Forest”. We didn’t have to write anything down and, as far as I can remember, we were never tested on any of this material. We just had to listen. It was bliss.

If you wanted to know what happened next, you would find a copy of the book at home or buy it from Boots (the only shop that sold books). A Dean’s Classic (a hardback with a brightly coloured picture on the cover) cost five shillings (two weeks’ pocket money).

ECP Stevens

... probably the best teacher I ever had

Mr Stevens was probably the best teacher I ever had and he  knew that the reading habit, like all good habits, is caught and not taught.

Those Friday afternoons gave generations of children a solid grounding in English literature and a love of reading for its own sake. I shall always be grateful for them.

Images : Cover of Lorna Doone via Amazon