In celebration of reading through World Book Week, our pupils embarked on a reflective and creative project charting their journey of reading books from their early years to present time. They collated their favourite books along with the memories associated with them, then began to reflect on their personal reading over time. In initiating this work with our pupils we sought to gather many scattered ongoing conversations about books and what they mean to us. We intended for our pupils to further develop their love for reading, find out what their peers are reading or have read and get new ideas of books they could read. Towards this end, as a way of expressing and sharing their reflections, pupils were presented with the metaphor of a river to represent their journey. This concept of ‘Rivers of Reading’ comes from a research paper in literacy education which had children and adolescents creating ‘critical incident collages’ of their reading histories, proposing that through this, children gain some sense of the complex personal and sociocultural dimensions of reading:
“Using a river as a metaphor for a personal reading history gives rise to certain expectations about concepts of reading and readership. Rivers are constantly in motion and ever-changing, shaped by and shaping the terrain through which they flow. From their source to their destination, they curve, rush, stagnate; their colour is formed by light from the changing skies above and the scope and substance of the depths below. In every respect, then, they are dynamic, constantly shifting and restructuring themselves. Furthermore, the idea of students representing their reading as rivers requires them to think about readership not only in terms of the space created by their interconnection with others through reading – families, friends, classmates, authors, fictional characters for example – but also, simultaneously, in terms of time – past, present and, in some cases, future.
This metaphor, as a way for pupils to express and share their journeys, was presented to our pupils through teachers’ modelling; some teachers created and shared their own ‘rivers of reading’ first in a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Following this, many pupils also discussed and came up with other metaphors such as trees, mazes, and in the case of one pupil, a telescope, to represent their personal reading journeys. Pupils’ presentations were interactive; their collages of books featured flaps to lift up upon which they described what each book meant to them.
What emerged through the week was a collection of beautiful displays unique to each individual, showcasing the diversity of our pupils’ reading experiences and in some instances wonderfully illustrating the seamless merging of traditions – the classics and contemporary books of great English literature blending with the some of the beloved stories and treasures of our Islamic tradition in pupils’ reading journeys.
Here, accompanied in some instances by reflective texts or video narrations, are some pupils’ completed pieces of work.
‘Our Reading Universe’ (Z, 15)
‘As most significantly poignant reading journeys begin, mine began right from the onset of my childhood, rooted in a faith driven and spiritually aware existence. Along with the melting-pot of contrasting forms of literature I read, my environment has always permeated and seeped into the new worlds brought on by my books. They continue to mesh and co-exist into my perceived universe. It is messy and chaotic – yet one glance at my effort to translate it into a picture reveals that it seems to work unified. If I push it, then it holds itself as a rare standalone beauty. This being because my reading journey, which makes the world as I understand it for myself, is inspired and is also an inspiration in itself. And it is all within me; birthed in my mind, so wherever I go, I carry my world with me. The world which I am a part of. For this reason, mine is unable to be the same as any other, and nor can any other hold a minute semblance to mine. We each have our own journeys, worlds that will always expand and grow within one universe.’
‘The Sheer Pleasure of Reading’ (M, 15)
Do you have books which you keep reading and can’t help but put down until they are finished? Or books which you can just keep reading again and again for the sheer pleasure of it, whether or not you have the time? Many of the books I have read fall into this category. They made me feel this way because they took me on adventures, starting from Fairy Tales such as Jack and the Beanstalk and Wizard of Oz; Roald Dahl’s books; Pippi Longstocking; Holes; The Secret Seven; The Hobbit, Land of Stories; Alex Rider; and Lord of the Rings, which I am yet to finish. Some books which I have read have taught me something. For example, as a child, ‘Letter Land’ taught me the Alphabet well and ‘Islam for Young People’ taught me not to give advice to someone which you don’t take yourself. Other books scared me, such as ‘Twelve Minutes to Midnight’ and ‘Groosham Grange’; I couldn’t sleep after reading these as a child because I thought something would come into my room and take me away! A few books have made me sad, such as 'When Wings Expand’ and others have made me angry, such as ‘The Shepherd’s Granddaughter’. Right now, I am reading a book which has made me reflect on my life and what I am doing with it: ‘The Lives of Man’ reminds me that I am not going to live forever and I need to get ready. It makes me aware of the stages of life and death and how I can prepare for these, and teaches me that you need not be scared of death if you are prepared for it: what we make of our lives is in our hands. This is the theme of another book, or text, I am currently reading: Macbeth. I am following the character Macbeth who brings upon his own downfall due to his greed of being King. In order to be King and stay in power he commits the murder of innocent people. This story shows us the sad thing about us humans, which is that we bring our downfall upon ourselves through our actions. I am enjoying this because I like the themes and discussing the ideas from it. I enjoy reading because it makes my mind wander and wonder and takes me on a journey. I remember reading a lot when I was in primary school but then slowly reading less as I grew older because I didn’t have as much time as I did before. I would wait for bedtime so I could snuggle up in my bed and read ‘Land of Stories’. I read mostly at night time now. I hope, in the future, I can read books which will excite me and grab my interest until the last page, or make me read the same words again and again for the sheer pleasure of it.
Lost Years (N, 14)
An Expansive Tree (S, 12)
Inside-Outside Maze (T, 14)
‘Books splashed with pictures, a few words on every page and smooth fabric for me to touch or feel. These were my early books, which I read or my parents read to me between the ages of one to give. I imagined a real cat next to me as I stroked the fur on the book. It came to life this way. The first book is like a starter or a plain piece of chocolate fed to you. There is no flavour, but as soon as you begin to try other pieces, like Apple, Strawberry, Orange Chocolate, or fudge, a whole other world of chocolate tasting is opened up to you, with different doors and gateways.
I read books by Enid Blyton when I was ten. Her books transported me to anoher time and place. She made me feel as if I was living the adventure. It made me like adventure books and I liked that Elizabeth (The Naughtiest Girl) learnt from her mistakes at the boarding school. Also I read ‘A School Girl’s Hero’ which was full of morals and values with teenage girls who long to become the ideal role model for Muslims in a multicultural society. In older years, I started learning about the history of the places and the outside world and its problems - wars, refugees, orphans - by reading stories which had those things in them. The words the authors used made me imagine the reality of their feelings and experiences.
Reading books means you are never steady. There are always going to be twists and turns unexpected. You can never say that this one or that one is you last book, or within that it's your last page, because a story is never ending. It may end for the author but not for you.’