Bookwormery has been a lifelong habit for all but the first two and a half years of my life. I was still toddling when I first learnt to read and started sharing my stories with the next door neighbour's dog. Precocious, moi?
I remember when my mum took me on my first visit to my infant school. It was a lovely place , a source of great memories with toys that would set a health and safety inspector's pulse racing in modern times. Like the sets of wooden blocks backed with real nails that you hammered into a cork tile or the hand of another kiddie when they were being particularly annoying. There were also climbing frames constructed over concrete. It's a wonder that we didn't all come away with head injuries.
'We teach ITA here.' Mrs Cook, the headmistress told my mum. It was a phonetically based teaching tool with no upper case and weird and wonderful letters that augmented the usual alphabet. While it was popular for a while in the '60s and '70s it lost favour as loads of people who learnt it struggled to spell properly when they made the switch back to standard English. Mum told Miss Cook that I could already read. 'Of course she can't dear.' was the answer. In those days head teachers were held in high regards and had sufficient authority to get away with being patronising.
In order that I could identify where I was supposed to hang my pink coat the peg had a picture of an umbrella above it. Of course it was assumed that if the word 'Julie' had been there instead it would have make no sense to me. I vividly recall the first time that I was called up to the front of the class for my first 1:1 reading session with my teacher. This book 'paul' , written in the Initial Teaching Alphabet, was put in front of me. In spite of some unfamiliar curly characters I read it from end to end on the first attempt much to the lovely Miss Nightingale's astonishment. Someone then had a rethink and decided that I could revert to using the proper alphabet.
And so it was that I was allowed to do my own thing for the first two years of schooling whilst the others in my class caught up. I became chief errand runner and immersed myself in a sea of Fuzzy Felt and old fashioned standard English books from the library meant for the older kids. I'm in two minds as to whether leaving a four year old to educate themselves is a good idea. It made conforming to formal teaching difficult and to this day I find sitting still in a classroom a bit of an ordeal. But then again maybe a bit of self sufficiency served me well. I've only just got to appreciate that in later life.