The Journey of A Thousand Books Sets Sail.

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

Do you remember that incredible, mind-blowing feeling when you finally found THAT BOOK when you were young which suddenly opened up the world of reading? That sense of discovering your very own Disneyland, a veritable Aladdin’s cave of treasures…all through the pages of a book! It’s something you never forget!

For me, that book was The Diary of Anne Frank, which my mother gave me for my 13th birthday. It was a very conscious move on her part as she really wanted me to share her love of reading and experience that wonder for myself. After a few misses along the way, it worked. Anne Frank the same age as me, a writer and someone I could relate to in so many ways. Moreover, her diary was also non-fiction and I’m still not really much of a novel reader.

However, reading the The Diary of Anne Franknot only sparked my love of reading, it also encouraged my love of writing and inspired me to write my own journal which I called, apparently not so originally, “Anne”.

Of course, there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then.

Now, as a parent, I’ve found myself in my mother’s shoes, trying to engender a love of reading for our son. To take him beyond all the many books which we have read together snuggled on my lap, to the point where he’ll want to grab a book and read it for himself. That like the rest of the family, his books will also become his friends. However, this transition is not necessarily a given, even if you come from a family of avid readers and even writers. It is a path we each have to work out for ourselves. That said, as parents we can increase the odds by providing good maps, compasses, encouragement and, of course, a strong torch (It could even be the same torch you used to use to read in bed when it was supposedly “lights out”!)

Trying to find this game-changing book for our son has been a bit hit and miss and certainly hasn’t been helped by his love of the dreaded computer game, Minecraft.

Perhaps I’m getting old but I’m convinced electronic games are a much greater evil than the box ever was in our day. The TV also used to go to sleep in those days and wasn’t awake all night. I’ve lost track of the friends who’ve woken up in the middle of the night and found their kid playing Minecraft or similar. It’s there 24/7,. That is, unless you lock it up in the garage like we do during the week. Well, at least that’s the iPads.

Anyway, it now looks like he has finally found THE BOOK. For 11 year old Mister who is pretty interested in maths, this book is The Big Book of Numbers by self-confessed Maths Geek, Adam Spencer. If you haven’t heard of Adam Spencer, you can check him out here: I can assure you that he comes highly recommended and by none less than Monty Python’s John Cleese: “If you find this book boring, you should be in a clinic.”

Mister asking Adam some questions from the book. Yes, he had read it...I was so proud!

Mister asking Adam some questions from the book. Yes, he had read it…I was so proud!

Well, as it turns out Mister wasn’t the only one reading The Big Book of Numbers this week. I am almost ashamed to admit it but I also crossed to the dark side. That’s right. I was reading it too. I even enjoyed it and could even understand some of it. For someone who sticks with 10 digit arithmetic, that’s a glowing endorsement!

I mean I live, breathe and even eat the thesaurus.

After all, as we all know, the world is divided into two very distinct camps. There’s alphabet soup on one side and number soup on the other and never the twain shall meet. That is, unless you’re talking about someone who is off the charts smart. What my son calls a “brainiac”. Just to clarify that, this word is used to the best of my knowledge, as a compliment, not as an insult.

Once wasn't enough. Reading the book in class on Open Day.

Once wasn’t enough. Reading the book in class on Open Day.

The reason I crossed to the dark side was simple. Adam Spencer was visiting the kids’ school this week as one of the Dymock’s Children’s Charity’s Book Bank Ambassadors and I was do the publicity for the P & C. That had me behind the camera, grabbing a friend to take notes and then writing what wouldn’t be a churned out press release afterwards. With this job ahead, naturally I felt I had to read the book, especially as Adam Spencer’s face has been calling out to me from the cover for the last six months. Indeed, we’ve almost been having a dialogue. You know how it is when all those books you have piled up beside the bed and all around your desk and almost up to the ceiling, all look up at you with those adorable, irresistible puppy dog eyes saying:”Read me! Read ME!”

You do end up with quite a guilt complex, don’t you?!

Adam Spencer at school this week. Quite a change of pace to Sydney University's Manning Bar!

Adam Spencer at school this week. Quite a change of pace to Sydney University’s Manning Bar!

Yet, just to add further fuel to my guilt, Adam Spencer and I went to Sydney University together where not all roads but a great many, led to Manning Bar before, during and after lectures. Just to set the record straight, I wasn’t much of a drinker but I was a talker. Anyway, Adam and I weren’t what you’d call friends but were possibly “mates”. That’s a sort of generic term we use in Australia to describe just about anyone you’re a bit friendly with over those few degrees of separation. Close friends of mine were friends with him.

Adam Spencer gave the kids an entertaining and mathematically mind-boggling presentation which culminated with his enthusiastic message to “Read! Read! Read!. However, for me personally, the greatest moments were those few unplanned minutes afterwards where the “maths geeks” popped out of the woodwork not only wanting copies of their Big Book of Numbers signed. They really wanted to talk with Adam and share his world, even if only for a few brief minutes because they’d found someone like them. Maybe, they weren’t quite “the best mathematicians in the world”, which is how my son referred to Adam, but they spoke the same language. Who knows? Perhaps, there was a young mathematician in that hall whose whole life path suddenly opened up to them. That after hearing and meeting Adam Spencer that they now know who they are and possibly even where they belong. That is a struggle for anyone I think and a possibility, which was opened up by this great opportunity. By having the opportunity to step outside their usual sphere and experience something else.

I certainly know Adam Spencer’s visit and his book have opened up my son’s mind and have very definitely lit a spark. Who knows where that will go. He is only 11 and his journey is only beginning. As Lao Tzu wrote so well:

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

The only trouble is that as an 11 year old, Mum and Dad somehow need to keep up!

So how about you? What was the book which launched your love of reading? How about kids? I love to hear your stories!

xx Rowena

About Dymock’s Book Bank

To find out more about the Dymock’s Children’s Charity’s Book Bank Project, click here:

20 thoughts on “The Journey of A Thousand Books Sets Sail.

  1. New Journey

    call me crazy but it was Cinderella….I had a huge book with lots of lovey pictures to go along with the story, it wasn’t that I fell in love with Cinderella, but the story of how she got to where she was, not the fairy take so much as this book made it real to me, I was in 2nd or 3rd grade and this book brought fantasy to me…after that I started to literally inhale any books about fantasy, not just the happy ending fairy tale fantasy but all fantasy….and to this day I am a huge fantasy, paranormal, out of the normal reading kinda gal….so nice to see your son into his book…my son didn’t get into books until Harry Potter series came along and then I would find myself standing in a long line to get the next one coming out for him…we do what we gotta do to keep our kids reading, that lead him to the Hobbit series which his sister owned, but it is nice to see them reading….Never had to ask my daughter to read, more like had to ask her to put the books down and help with the chores…LOL now she is a writer..she caught that bug early in her life…I am going to check out the numbers book…might be fun to read something completely different….I just finished a good book, The Eight by Neville, Katherine, my daughter and daughter in law and I started a book club and we each pick a book to read when its our turn, my dtr in aw picked this one….really good….I recommend it….not fantasy, but very good….hope your enjoying the end of your winter, since we are heading into all, wouldn’t that make it almost spring there??? XX Kat

  2. Pingback: Teachers Beware: Maths Geek Alert! | beyondtheflow

  3. roweeee Post author

    Kat, it is NOT almost Spring here…at least in terms of these FREEEEZING temperatures. Tonight I’ve been going into battle with the dog who keeps opening the back door, which is right next to my desk here and leaving it open. Sure, there’s no snow but??!! He’s now locked out there. My kids seem to have by-passed Harry Potter so far and my daughter reads like yours. Gets caught reading in bed by torchlight every now and then. She’s 9 and reading The Hobbit. My son keeps watching the Lord of the Rings on DVD so I might suggest The Hobbit to him too. Take care Kat and enjoy the last bits of Summer xx Ro

  4. Joanne Corey

    Do you know Graeme Base’s “The Eleventh Hour”? Your family might all appreciate it. Clever words, fantastic illustrations, and a mystery to solve.

    The most compelling reading story in my family is my niece Skye. She was struggling with reading and her school was not being very helpful. My sister finally took her to a specialist for evaluation and they discovered that she had a form of inherited dyslexia. My sister was perplexed, as she didn’t know of anyone in our family who was affected. When she told my parents about the diagnosis, my father recognized that Skye had the same problems that he did. At the age of 80, he discovered that the reading difficulties that he had worked around his whole life, without telling anyone about it, were caused by dyslexia! Skye’s older brother with the help of his parents started raising funds for the organization that was aiding Skye to help her access the world of books and Skye took on the project when she was older. It became known as The Paco Project There is a video on the site telling the story of Skye and her grandfather, whom we call Paco.

    As Skye was in her high school years, she became an advocate for dyslexic students in New York City, where she lives, and for other kids who were being marginalized for other reasons. As its final project, The Paco Project raised $25,000 to help NYC kids who needed help with reading. In a few weeks, Skye will start college. She will be studying Early Childhood Education, with an eye to spotting potential reading problems in pre-schoolers, so that they always have the tools they need to succeed. We are all so proud of her and my dad for what they have done to help others.

  5. Pingback: Discovering Dyslexia – Top of JC's Mind

  6. roweeee Post author

    I love Graham Base’s books and I think we have the 11th Hour. I saw an interview with him once and he spoke about his mind is constantly on overdrive and I so related to that. I actually need to think of ways of cooling down my creativity so I can function in the real world.
    I will check out the Paco project but need to get a sound card. My laptop is out of order at the moment. I’ve replied further on your post xx Rowena

  7. roweeee Post author

    The teachers at the school aren’t always so thrilled when the kids are late and notes and homework go missing but I am trying to reach a balance.
    By the way, you can also add my husband to that list.
    xx Rowena

  8. merrildsmith

    It’s been a busy week, and I’m just now catching up on posts–but I’m reading them out of order.
    I don’t have any one book that launched my love of reading. I’ve always loved to read. When I was young I read everything–some books around the house that were really above my comprehension, although I think that helped my vocabulary. I remember loving the Narnia books when I was in elementary school–just discovered them on my own in the school library.

    Recently my older daughter and I discovered that we were coincidentally reading the same book!

  9. aFrankAngle

    Perfect example of a book I would like. Cheers to you crossing into the dark side … I’m sure, a bit daring and fun! Seems you should refer Mister & Son to my post. 😉

  10. roweeee Post author

    Yes and my husband. They would both love it and I’m sure Mister would be quoting it to his teacher for days. She’s on the literary side like me and has my admiration. I get so much thrown at me as a parent which goes flying straight over my head and yet I have a genetic commonality with my kids. teachers have my greatest respect having to respond to questions from 30 different minds and being expected ton know the answer. Amen to Google! xx Rowena

  11. roweeee Post author

    Frank, I’m sorry I somehow missed your comment.
    You never know when all that information could become useful. Writing any kind of novel, for example, requires an incredible amount of general knowledge. However, there’s also that person who has an incredible amount of knowledge in a particular field. Useful when talking to like-minds but can be excessive to others. My husband works in IT and can get a bit that way at times. I’m always happy for him to chat to his IT friends and use up his 2000 words a day of technical talk LOL xx Rowena

  12. roweeee Post author

    We watch Sherlock on TV, which isn’t quite the same. I hadn’t heard of Martin Gardner but looked him up and emailed my daughter a link to making tetraflexagons. That will keep her busy. Mum bought our son a book we thought you’d like. My husband is currently laughing his way through it: “Thing Explainer” by Randall Munroe by the creator of I can see I’ll need to have a look.
    By the way, even though I’m not very maths orriented, I have worked in science promotion and have been to Science Meets Parliament in Canberra in a past life. xx Rowena

  13. abyssbrain

    I agree that it’s not the same…

    Martin Gardner is the best writer of recreational mathematics. Even if he was not trained to be a professional mathematician (he studied Philosophy, and in fact, he struggled with calculus which is one of the most basic subjects of higher mathematics), I highly doubt that there is anyone alive right now who understands the fundamentals of mathematics more than him.

    I have spent quite a lot of time before making flexagon and its variations 🙂

    I just read that book last month and I must say that it’s pretty ingenious though I was not that surprised since Munroe’s other book that I’ve read, What If? : Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions was also a good one.

    Oh, that’s interesting to know and I love science as well.

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