Books I read in 2014

I LOVE having others recommend books to me… so I’m going to tell you a few books I read this year and perhaps you’ll find a new friend for your shelves.

Roddy Doyle’s “A greyhound of a girl” entertained and moved me. I liked John B. Keane’s “The Bodhrán makers” and Frank O’Connor’s “An Only Child”.

I enjoyed Charles Frazier’s “Thirteen Moons”.

It wasn’t as affecting as his “Cold Mountain” but still an amazing read, as a 12 year old narrator is given a key, a horse and a map and sent to run a trading post at the edge of the Cherokee Nation.
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Of course, as usual I re-read Anita Shreve’s “The Pilot’s Wife”.

I LOVE this book. I live differently after I read it. I got it in 2000 when I was pregnant with Oran. It was free with a box of tea bags and I was very dubious that it could be insightful or moving but it proved to be both.
She published her new book “The Lives of Stella Bain” which harked back to an earlier novel, which I can’t name or it would spoil the twist!

Kinta Beevor’s “A Tuscan Childhood” is autobiographical and evokes the landscape and artistic milieu of the author’s family.

I’m currently reading Barbara Ehrenreich “Smile or Die” which is a perfect antidote for anyone who’s fed up with the devotion to “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne. I get the theory of the Law of Attraction and creating vibrations to attain our desires, but the die-hard proponents of the theory seem sadly lacking in compassion to me… if you take the theory to its logical conclusion, then EVERYONE deserves their circumstances, and my 47 years have shown me that’s nonsense; we all need to help each other and be sympathetic and empathetic, rather than judgemental. Ms. Ehrenreich’s personal experience is with breast cancer treatment and what she identified as a dangerous addiction to preaching positivity to ill and depressed people.

I found two John Holt books which I hadn’t read before: “Instead of Education” and “Freedom and Beyond”. Like so much he’s written, I found myself nodding along.

I’m re-reading Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” after studying it 33 years ago for my English exam. I usually read very fast but am trying to deliberately slow down and savour his brilliant story of Pip, Joe and Mrs. Gargery, Miss Havisham and Estella.

For Christmas, as well as a bookshop voucher, I got a copy of Charlotte Bronte’s “Villette” which looks brilliant – based on her own experiences teaching in Brussels. The cover says it’s about bearing repressed feelings and cruel circumstances with heroic fortitude.
Villette

The book which has had all of the older family members laughing this Christmas is the compilation of satirical news stories from Waterford Whispers News.
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One of our favourite spoof stories was:

WWN story

And this one:
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I’m reading Roald Dahl’s “Esio Trot” to Eamonn and we are both loving the story of Mr. Hoppy who loves his neighbour, widowed Mrs. Silver, and gains her love by “magically” helping her to achieve the dream of having her per tortoise grow bigger.
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Anthony Hopkins, playing C. S. Lewis in “Shadowlands” says “we read to know we’re not alone”, (quoting a student’s father, I think, who was a primary school teacher). That phrase stays with me and I feel there’s truth in it. I guess it’s why the breastfeeding, home birth and home education newsletters are so important to me from my memberships of these support groups. I have old newsletters from MANY years ago (20, even) and I know they may seem superfluous now that all information appears available on-line (for a fraction of the cost of felling a tree) but I am SO GRATEFUL for the trees and process that produces paper for me to hold. I can’t imagine nursing a small baby with a phone or screen in hand instead of a newsletter or book!
Here’s to many happy hours reading in 2015!

Our 6 year old: learning to spell and read

Learning to read… that magic when the squiggles on the page become something you can decipher!
This is not a “how to” post, merely a description of what’s happening now for our youngest, the 6th child to learn to read from our family. He’s aged 6 years and 11 months.

Yes, I know I could have taught him years ago. (My mother had Glen Doman’s “Teach your baby to read” which describes a process of using flash cards and having a fluent reader, aged 2 years).

Yes, I know I could have read up on all the latest teaching fashions.. it was Letterland in Ireland for some of his older brothers at this stage, who are now aged 19 and 21. Now many schools seem to be using Jolly Phonics.

Yes, I know I could get exercised about whether phonics or whole word methods are preferable. I could engage in heated debates regarding the orthodoxy of teaching reading methods.

But…

A little Secret…

I have NEVER TAUGHT a child to read!!!
Or spell!!!
Or do times tables!!!
There… sue me!!!

Here’s what I did:

I read books.
And newspapers.
And magazines.
I got membership newsletters from La Leche League, the Home Birth Association of Ireland, “Sa Bhaile” (former Irish newsletter for home ed.), Home Education Network, the Miscarriage Association of Ireland, the Irish Haemophilia Society, The Mother magazine and before that, The Compleat Mother.
I borrowed copies of “Education Otherwise” magazines and John Holt’s “Growing Without Schooling”.
So I’d be nursing a baby/toddler/older child(!) and reading.
Whatever I wanted to read.
I read Jane Austen, Maeve Binchy, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Ina May Gaskin, Marian Keyes, Sheila Kitzinger, Alexander McCall Smith, Anita Shreve….

So all the children here think books are sacred.. and important… and worth looking at everyday. They picked up the idea (along with mother’s breastmilk?) that words have power and magic and are enjoyable and a GOOD THING.

I never told them they SHOULD read.

I just read.

For myself.

I read to them too, of course… we read Walter Macken and Shirley Hughes and C.S. Lewis and Dr. Seuss and Tolkien and Enid Blyton and Michael Morpugo and J. K. Rowling…

We went to the library and borrowed books on tape and CD.

So last night at a time that was more than 2 hours later than his notional (more honoured in the breach than in the observance) “bed time”, Eamonn (6) said:

“Will you snuggle me?”
“Yes.”
“How do you spell ‘snuggle’?… NO! WAIT!!”
Deep quiet thinking..
“S… N…G… now wait, DON’T tell me…”
More thinking, I swear I could hear the cogs turn in his brain, or the synapses firing..
“S.. N.. U.. G”
“Well done! ” I said. “You got SNUG .. now, you just need the “gle” sound…”
More thinking..
“G..L?”
Let me remind you, he is not yet a reader. So SNUGGL is a pretty brilliant try, I think.

I’ll keep you posted!