I was recently given opportunity to think about when and how I first became “hooked” on reading. In training a team of teachers to become reading champions at their schools I wanted to talk a little of my own experience. The first time I remember being completely captivated by a book – and addicted the point that I could not conceivably do anything else until it was finished – was when I read Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. I went on to read everything else that he had written for children and adults, but nothing gripped me as much as the story of the
peach. I read it during a school holiday and it was more enticing to me than visits to the beach, fishing or any of the other delights that a visit to the coast has to offer a young boy. I obstinately refused to
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do anything until I had read to the last page. I don’t remember much of the story. I only remember the addict’s thrill of being hooked. That copy of the book is long lost, but I downloaded the book recently and read it through again – mostly in one night. I remember now why I was so delighted. Evil Aunts Spiker and Sponge being squashed as flat as pancakes was certainly cause for celebration. But it is the wild and unfettered imagination of Roald Dahl that takes me on a journey that is irresistible – as a child, and then again 30-odd years later as an adult. In the age of distraction, it is the choice of books and how we introduce kids to these books that is the secret to hooking them to become life-long readers. I credit Dahl for launching me on a journey that like a giant peach rolling down a hillside has gained great momentum over the years. It has brought me great pleasure, has composted my imagination and has enriched my mind in so many ways. It is this love of reading and the richness it has brought to my life that has inspired much of the work we do in Social Innovations today. Over the last three years we have taken thousands of books into schools and have worked with teachers to inspire them to in-turn inspire kids to become hooked on books. Many of the teachers we work with are themselves not readers of books (though they may read newspapers and magazines) but what has struck me during training is the effect of offering them an hour to quietly read through a selection of great children’s books. They become captivated. I love to watch the smiles appear on their faces and the quiet exclamations as they become absorbed into the joy of story. In 2014 we will launch more children on this journey as we deliver more books into schools. Like James’ journey in the Giant Peach it is one that will bring much joy and that can change the course of many young lives. I look forward to a year of discovery with our new schools. Enjoy the ride with us!