Let me talk about the importance of books and reading. You might think the book in your bag is not all that but let me try to change your mind. When I was at Primary School, i was not the most avid reader. In fact, you probably wouldn’t have seen me with a book. It wasn’t something I did for pleasure. Maybe it was having learnt to read through the Peter and Jane reading scheme meant that reading did not equal enjoyment for me.
So come Year Six most of my writing was underlined in red pen by the teacher due to the poor spelling. At Parents’ Evening, my teacher (Mr Patchett) told my mother I needed to read more to help my spelling. My mother promptly passed the message onto me, with strong emphasis. So the next day, I searched the classroom bookshelf for a book until I chanced on The Otterbury Incident by Cecil Day-Lewis.
It was about two gangs of boys who team up to help raise money for a friend. There were cunning tricks and battles with crooks. It was brilliant. So I read it again. And again. And again. After that, I thought “I’ll try something else,” and the reading bug was born within me. That book changed my life.
Governments need to celebrate the power of books. Libraries should be given all the funds they need. Schools given grants for author visits. WORLD BOOK DAY should be everyday.
OK children It’s time for the Spelling Test Remember: no talking If I see you talking I will tear up your paper for cheating Susan, what did I just say? That’s right, NO TALKING. Question 1 Suc-cess Remember my clue: Two cuffs, two sleeves Michael, are you paying attention?
I’em a sawin bird in the ski dragon wing tell mak me fli a nite in rmer rides my bak blazin sward helld hi for attak
OK Question 2 Ne-ces-sary Here’s the clue One cup, two sugars Remember that One cup, two sugars Michael, have you got number one done yet?
The prinsess waits in her towa walls of vine and flowa a which chains her too a bed kacklin lowdly makin dred
Michael! You haven’t even started! How do you expect to write if you can’t spell?
When I was at Primary School, I was not very good at spelling. Every week I would work hard to learn my list of 10 spellings. Then Friday would come and the test. I always got 10 out of 10 but still my writing in my exercise book had every other word underlined in red for being spelt wrong. I only learnt to spell by having a dictionary next to me and looking up every word as I wrote and by reading lots. Reading helps.
I’m sorry to say but often spelling gets in the way of good story writing, along with handwriting. Parents panic about it, pointing out any ‘simple’ errors to their children. Teachers fret about it because it can influence assessment scores.
This is bad.
By all this panic and fretting, you get very worried. You begin to believe that spelling and handwriting make a good story. That any story where it is a bit wobbly is not a good story.
When a writer is writing their story for the first time (first draft) there is only one thing they are worried about: getting to the end of the story. That’s right! You should only worry about getting your ideas down, following your characters as they go on their adventure in whatever world or place you have put them in.
That doesn’t mean writers ignore spelling, punctuation and that grammar stuff. It just means we check all that when we do a second draft. That’s a time to fix that.
Well, a published work should be readable. But you only worry about that at the very end. And you could always use a computer.
So stop worrying for now about that spelling and punctuation stuff. Sit down. Dream. And get that story down – to the end!