I thought this morning I would tell you about the marvellous event that took place in my school life during the summer of 1965. I was in fifth class at East Tamworth Public School on the day of this very special event, and our class room was on the top floor of a long rectangular building made of red brick. I always sat at the back of the class room, to the left hand side and right beside the window. On that beautiful morning I was wistfully looking through the window out across the asphalt play area, past the grassed softball pitch to the green lawns of Anzac Park, wishing that I was outside in the sunshine.
The teacher interrupted my thoughts to introduce a new student, a skinny girl with short light brown hair. He explained to the class that this girl was a “student of the air” and that she was staying with relatives for a couple of weeks so that she would have the opportunity to attend classroom lessons for a while. I am forever sorry that I can’t remember the name of the girl who ended up having such a huge impact on my life.
The girl walked up the isle between the desks to take a seat directly behind me, and beside Cecil who sat behind me all through my primary school years. She was quiet by nature so I never heard a word from her, not for days. Looking back, I often thought that she was probably terrified at being dumped into a classroom with thirty other children after being used to studying in her lounge room, on a property hundreds of miles from anywhere.
A couple of weeks after her arrival, as the mid-morning sun poured though the windows, our teacher asked the class to write a few paragraphs about our home, where we lived and what it meant to us. He gave us some time to complete the exercise and I busily wrote about our house, describing the rooms in a very basic fashion, what furniture was in them and what colour paint decorated the walls. After everyone was finished our teacher asked some of the students to read what they had written to the rest of the class and I listened with fascination as students began to describe the road where their home was located, and the rooms within it. Every child was describing very much the same dwelling in very much the same basic descriptions. Thankfully, the teacher didn’t ask me to read mine as I had started to feel that what I had written was really basic, and totally inadequate.
But then the girl behind me was asked to stand up and read! You could see how nervous she was as she stood and lifted her book in front of her, and I remember thinking I was so glad it was her and not me. Her voice was very quiet and gentle as she proceeded to paint the most beautiful picture with words that I had ever heard. This gentle soul described in great detail the powder blue of the sky, the reds and brown of the countryside, the dead and fallen trees in yellow grassy paddocks, and the smell of wool as it was shorn from the back of a sheep. The reading probably only took a couple of minutes but during that time not a sound could be heard in our classroom, absolutely everyone had stopped to listen to this girl put her heart and soul into her writing, leaving us all with a sense of her homesickness and a great desire to see the things she saw, smell the smells she smelled and experience the love she felt for the place where she lived.
I don’t know what ever happened to the girl who wrote so beautifully, but she disappeared from our classroom just as suddenly as she had come into it just a week or two later. I often wonder if she ever ended up writing for a living, perhaps I’ve read a book that she has written and not realised it because I can’t recall her name.
It was the day that I heard that girl read her composition though, that started my lifelong love affair with reading. On that very day I realised that when you read a book it could transport you into a different world, and for a short time you would get to live a completely different life. I could be a heroine, an explorer, a pirate or a queen, live in exotic faraway places, and float through the streets of Venice or dive to the depths of an ocean. I learned how very powerful the written word could be.
To this very day I continue to love reading and I have spent my life to this point trying to inspire that same joy in both of my sons, by reading to them almost every night when I put them to bed as little kids. I’m hoping that as they both get older they will find that love of reading, no matter what the source. I have encouraged them to read newspapers, history, fashion magazines, adventure stories, cook books, murder novels and love stories because in each and everything that they read you will learn something that will help them in their everyday lives.
Below is a list of some of my favourite books and authors:
- Bible stories – the story of Esther in a childhood book was my favourite
- Lassie Come Home – My sister Gwen read this to me a little each day when I was on a visit with her out on the farm
- The Alchemist & The Warrior of Light – Paulo Coelho
- Pug the Magician – Raymond E. Feist – plus all of his Rift War Series
- Mallawindy & Pearl in a Cage by Joy Dettman
- Into the Wilderness series – Sarah Donati
- Clan of the Cave Bear – Jean Aule – one of my absolute favourites of all time which I have re-read a number of times
- Deception Point and Inferno by Dan Brown
- Lady of Hay & Sands of Time– Barbara Erskine
- The Twilight Saga – Stephanie Meyers
- Harry Potter series – J. K. Rowling
Here’s to reading and losing yourself in the adventure! May you all experience the pure pleasure of loosing yourselves to the power and beauty of the written word.