July’s Are You Sitting Comfortably with Bookmark Reading Charity

Ordinary Time by Cathy Rentzenbrink

Last night I attended the final night of my daughter’s play “Matilda”, the musical that she has been rehearsing with her theatre school since September. Yes, I cried copious tears of pride, yes I was astonished at the sheer professionalism of the children and the production but most of all I was hit with the realisation that every one of these girls was there because they love performing. Every little face shone with joy, not one wobbly mouth, not anyone hiding at the back. They danced and sang and acted their little hearts out to an audience radiating pride and joy and love.

That is why I love theatre. The school’s teachers are out of this world talented, ex West End professionals who ensure their passion for performance is continued in our next generation and generations to come. You can fill an entire theatre with happiness and think of all those people going home filled with joy and that joy spreads. That is another reason why I love theatre.

“Matilda” is about a little girl with a gift for reading and stories, a girl who wants to learn but is part of a family who were never taught to value reading. The stage was filled with boxes with letters from the alphabet and oversized books and it brought home to me the value of learning to read. Imagine if these girls hadn’t been taught to read? Imagine if they couldn’t even recognise the shapes on the boxes?

That one in four children in the UK will leave school without being able to read well is heartbreaking. Reading has been my passion since I was little, I have escaped into different worlds during tough times and returned to old friends when in need of solace or comfort. I have learned so much from books and my entire adult life has been reliant on reading, from learning my scripts as an actress to writing comedy sketches, from working in an ad agency to pay the bills to embracing social media and writing this blog and my little snippets on Instagram.

When my son was four he refused to learn to read. He had the basics but once he started school and was faced with the awful Biff, Chip and co he point blank refused to read (I couldn’t blame him – it is a dreadful series of books!!!). Blackberries got us though this tricky stage. My son would scoot up the lane, return and read a sentence and be rewarded with a handful of blackberries from the hedge. I am not sure this would work with his GCSE revision now but at least I helped to give him the tools should he choose to use them!

Bookmark Reading has developed a scheme to help children in disadvantaged areas of the UK to also have one to one reading tuition. It can be done in school or online so no travel time but a child gets two half hours a week with dedicated one to one literacy support.

Bookmark Reading explains that the impact of this is monumental. Teachers say children on the programme have improved their literacy skills, they’re making more progress in their reading attainment and they’ve dramatically grown in confidence. I watched a gorgeous BBC news item about a retired teacher who has just lost her husband and she said that being part of this scheme had given her a reason to live. The bond with her little reader was tangible even in the short article and it was very moving to watch.

If you have two spare half an hours a week, do have a look at this brilliant scheme. “Please sign up to be a reading volunteer and dedicate just 30 minutes twice a week, online or in-person, and help to change a child’s story”.

Visit their website – https://www.bookmarkreading.org/volunteer or get in touch for more information (info@bookmarkreading.org).

Over to Rebecca Fletcher to introduce the wonderful Cathy Rentzenbrink who as a child helped her Father to learn to read. As well as writing best selling books, Cathy also mentors a literacy scheme in prisons.

Rebecca Fletcher

Our guest author this month wrote one of the most powerful memoirs of the last decade.  An ex-bookseller and huge champion of books, she has written on life, death, love and literature.  Her debut novel was so tender and intimate in its portrayal of the nuances of marriage and parenthood that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her next work of fiction.  My goodness, it didn’t disappoint, and Rebecca and I can’t wait to share it with you.  

 

AYSC’S July guest is none other than Cathy Rentzenbrink – acclaimed memoirist and Sunday Times bestselling author whose books include The Last Act of Love, a heartbreaking yet uplifting testament to a family’s survival and the price we pay for love, and Everyone is Still Alive, a novel which explores the way life thwarts our expectations at every turn.  Sharing her voyage of discovery through the pleasures and solace to be found in writing, Cathy’s Write It All Down, offered an insightful guide to putting your life on the page.  Voracious readers make the best writers – Cathy knows just how to connect to her readers.   Her books ooze warmth and wisdom but there’s something in the way she shines a light on relationships in her fiction that cuts to the very heart and truth of them.

The gorgeous Cathy Rentzenbrink

 

Her latest novel, Ordinary Time, is just what I hoped it would be – immersive, full of feeling and well-observed.  Described as an Anna Karenina for modern life, it’s a story of marriage, parenting, of sacrifice and struggle but it’s also a story of what love means to us.

 

Ann is an accidental vicar’s wife.  Her husband, Tim, only has eyes for God.  Her son, Sam is curious and full of questions – often ones Ann can’t find an answer for.  Life is a conveyor belt of quotidian chores and lack lustre interactions.  Ann worries she’ll be found wanting by Tim’s needy congregation, that her lack of interest in the Sunday sermons or her husband’s flock will make headlines in the local gazette.  Each day feels like a trial.  A test of her marriage, a test of resilience.

 

When Stephen, her brother, calls for help, Ann leaves sleepy Cornwall for London.  An unexpected encounter with one of her brother’s friends offers the possibility of a new world.  Will she be able to resist temptation? 

 

Ann is so many things – a mother, a wife, a girl who didn’t fulfil her potential, a middle-aged woman searching for meaning, for love.  Ordinary Time is heartbreaking, riddled with wit and wisdom and emotionally charged.  It asks the big questions of love, friendship and marriage.  

 

Join Rebecca and I as we chat to Cathy Rentzenbrink on 15th July live on Instagram at 7pm – we’ll be asking Cathy all about Ordinary Time and its intimate portrayal of the inner voice of a 40 something woman at a crossroads.  

Click here to buy this fabulous book and immerse yourself in bookish joy : https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/authorlyfondofbooks