Amy Lyne and Bonnie Stevens worked together in a Dorset primary school for several years. During this time they developed many of the resources and techniques included in this program. Bonnie also recruits and trains adults for Dorset Reading Partners, a charity which equips volunteers to support children with their reading development in primary schools across Dorset. Before training as a teacher, Amy worked in children’s publishing, reviewing and book selling in Australia and the UK.
I was born in a bookshop in Sydney… well, practically. It was the family business and when I wasn’t at school I inhabited the children’s section; doing homework, pricing stock, recommending books to customers and reading, reading, reading. My mother is English and, to combat homesickness, she immersed us in the English classics. Mrs Tiggywinkle, Ratty, Pooh, the Psammead were always with us.
I had some interesting jobs on my way to becoming a teacher: journalist (briefly!), children’s book editor, assistant to Quentin Blake, researcher for the Roald Dahl Foundation, reviewer and bookseller.
Primary school teaching was an irresistible opportunity to share my love of language with children young enough to leap willingly into imaginative worlds.
Working alongside Bonnie in a Dorset village school, I found someone passionate and hugely knowledgeable about children’s reading. Together we tried out the techniques and many of the books used in Inkwell, always questioning and reviewing their effectiveness. Inkwell is an exciting new chapter for us both.
I don’t think I’m your ‘average’ learner. There, I’ve said it. I’m one of those who needs to move about whilst working, has to visualise ideas, talk about them, even to sing them.
I first realised this whilst at secondary school. When an inspirational teacher presented me with a textbook full of rhymes, mnemonics, ditties and doodles, my learning of physics flew. Being in the lower set didn’t matter because I understood it, I remembered it, I loved it. At the end of term exams I triumphed! But my subsequent move to the top set saw my fun physics book exchanged for one heavy enough to cause injury, with text so small my specs struggled to decipher it. Predictably, my physics flopped.
This experience taught me that we’re all different learners. Learning should always be creative, and yes, almost anything can be taught through songs and actions. (By the way, I can’t sing, but it doesn’t matter because the songs help children remember a spelling rule and the actions will remind them that learning is fun.)
At Dorset Reading Partners I see time after time how a different approach can really help a struggling child who simply needs to learn in a different way. I was that child.