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Gateway obsessions and the power of a good book.

How many of us are transported back to those magic moments of childhood just thinking about our old favourite books?

Recently, on a visit to mum's, I found myself digging around in the space under the stairs late one night, on a quest to find my childhood picture books. Although it seemed to me the perfect place for spiders, even the threat of Redbacks popping out of the forgotten space couldn't stop me from finding those books! Then came the satisfaction of unearthing all my old friends, my books, flipping through well-worn pages to inhale the pleasantly familiar musty scent of old paper. It's amazing how the power of a good book endures. These were the tales that remind me of special moments shared with mum, tucked up cosy in bed, and these books that instilled in me the love of reading and learning. These were the stories that helped to shape who I am and the way I think. To this day, whether happy, sad, interested or bored - I turn to a book. For entertainment, for solace and for knowledge- I can't think of any situation where a book couldn't help! And now I get to share my treasured favourites with my child. My daughter, whom despite seeming fairly confident learning to read, to this point hadn't shown a particular interest in reading on her own. Oh, she would insist on her two book minimum each night before bed, but the somewhat bland first readers she would bring home from school to read for homework were a bit of a chore, for everyone. Working in education I am aware of the rippling effect of issues that can arise from a lack of interest in reading. There is an entire industry within publishing dedicated to creating material to combat the reticence of the ever-growing population of reluctant readers! This was, until, the visit to Grandma's. Now, at this point, it would pay to mention that with the publishing and book distribution home business, grandma's house literally has a stock room. (Well, it is meant to be just a stockroom, but in reality, books overflow onto every surface and into every corner!) Think of a library, in your house, with only the latest books on just about every subject you can imagine. Yup, it's a book-lovers dream. However, it had seemed that my child was merely a book-liker. She didn't seem overly impressed at the inability to eat dinner on the table, smothered to the point of disuse by the latest shipment of books. But then, grandma pointed out that these books were early readers. Rainbow Fairy, Horrid Henry, funny books about magical kittens and trendy kids having grand adventures. And a book-lover was born.

Ayla reads her kitten to sleep.

Soon she was not to be seen without a book in hand. She could move around the house accomplishing tasks one-handed while her eyes remained glued to the page. Voraciously devouring book after book, it became clear that it wasn't reading that had failed to pique her interest. It was the lack of choice in reading material. So, before long I'm back at school and attending the year two parent-teacher interview. Was taking her out of school for two weeks to visit grandma detrimental to her progress? Not even close. When last assessed before leaving for our trip, Ayla was at reading level 13. Two weeks after returning she is at level 21! Her teacher tells me this is phenomenal progress and she is now free to choose her own reading material. Ayla is at the stage where she is no longer learning to read, but reading to learn. (See above, Ayla reading her rescue kitten a bedtime story;) Now the announcement of a trip to the library elicits cheering (cheering!), and Ayla can often be found curled up with a new book or rereading a favourite for the 5th time over. She has also become a wonderful conversationalist, sharing facts of which even I was unaware! She is not only becoming an exceptional reader but an exceptional thinker. This experience confirms for me what I have always known for myself. Books are powerful. They are the ultimate gateway obsession, leading to a hunger for knowledge that will never be quenched. Books are the keys to the kingdom, that for anyone, no matter who you are or where you come from, the world will open up for you.

But freedom and choice in education are paramount. Because learning is a life skill that can only be embraced when we can be truly inspired to love the adventure of discovery.

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