Open Road to Reading

June 29, 2014 at 11:22 pm | Posted in Australia, Family History, Reading | 22 Comments
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Girl reading 1940s

I have always loved reading. I don’t actually remember learning to read – the letters, phonics, word recognition, etc; I just remember reading. I feel like I have always done it.

I do distinctly remember the early years of school and the books we used to read. I started school in England when I was five, but we came to Australia only six months later. So it is the books we used here that I remember best.

The first reader I remember was a red soft-covered one that was followed by one with a blue-cover, “Stories to Read” The stories were illustrated in colour, which made them more attractive to young kids – to me anyway.

Stories to Read cover

More advanced readers, written for the NSW Department of Education, were “The Open Road to Reading” and “Travelling On”, and another I can’t remember now. The stories in these books really grabbed the imagination of this little girl who still believed in fairies, elves and a natural world that felt and responded to what people did to it. My favourite stories included “The Elves and the Shoemaker” and “The Little Fir Tree”.

The Open Road to Reading

One book from my childhood – when I was about eight years old – I will always remember. My brother Peter had probably borrowed from the library, as it was only there for a relatively short time. It was one of several flower fairy books by Cicely May Barker, I think “Flower Fairies of the Trees”.

Flower Fairies of Trees cover

I so wished it were mine, and I would get hold of it whenever I could.
That book would keep me engrossed for hours, drinking it its gorgeous pictures and the verse that went with each one. I wanted so much for those beautiful little fairies to be real, and more than half believed they were.

Australian public primary schools received magazines published by the Department of Education. Catholic schools, which we attended, had to buy them. They were graded in difficulty by age and class, with content aimed at the appropriate reading level. They were cheaply produced on white paper, and we would file them into a folder that used string to hold the issues for a year.

The magazines contained true stories, fiction and poems, many, if not most of them Australian, opening me to stories that were quite different from the English ones I usually read. The magazines came each month of the school year (ten a year, I think). I loved those stories too, and the nuns had no trouble getting me to read them. I would have read each item many times myself before we had to read them in class.

School magazine cover

I joined the local public library as soon as I was able to and when there was one I could get to. We lived in a mainly dairy farming area, with small villages here and there. The nearest decent sized town was fifteen miles away. There weren’t a lot of public services then either. So I also used to read any book at my level wherever I found it.

Do you remember when you first learned to read? Are books and reading important to you?

© Linda Visman

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