I have just been reading Skellig by David Almond. I can't believe I haven't read it before. It is truly one of the most beautiful books I have read in a long while. I was reminded to pick it up of the shelf by the recent publication of My Name is Mina, a sort of prequel that I will definitely be getting hold of.
Mina is a key character in Skellig; the strongest personality in the book. I particularly like her views on school. Her friend Michael brings home a book from school with a red sticker on the back. "It's for confident readers" he explains. "What if other readers want to read it?" she responds. Quoting Tyger, Tyger by William Blake she goes on to ask "Is that for the best readers or the worst readers? Does that need a good reading age?"
David Almond was a primary teacher, and obviously has a view on this sort of thing. I really agree with Mina. I get hung up on reading ages tests and interest levels, when sometimes we just need to focus on interest and excitement of books and other reading materials.
There has been a lot of focus recently about teaching boys. I get frustrated when any groups of children are spilt up based on something as arbitrary as gender. Lots of girls like climbing trees and lots of boys like cooking, it's impossible to generalise in this way. A particular bug-bear of mine are gender specific book covers. Just like we can't find any Clarks shoes for our daughter that aren't pink, it's hard to find a Jacqueline Wilson book that a boy is going to pick up of the library shelf, but I know a lot would get a lot out of them.