Interview: English with Holly

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Holly, I implore you to check out her website, YouTube and Facebook. She’s the queen of home schooling and came to the rescue for many parents during lockdown. Holly provided free KS2-3 English lessons with thousands of children tuning in every day. If that’s not enough, she’s also a mum of three beautiful girls (phew) and continues to promote reading, literacy and all things English today. Here’s a little insight to where her passion and enthusiasm has come from.

It’s been a busy year for you at home and in the (virtual) classroom, how’re you doing?

I feel more energised than ever! But I think that’s because I’m handling so many exciting projects and I’m at my best when I’m busy. The truth is, I haven’t slept properly since baby Eliza arrived 5 months ago, but we are muddling along!


What’s your first memory of reading as a child?

 It’s hard to pinpoint a moment as reading was always so woven into the fabric of our lives. My mum was very progressive in the fact that she knew reading every day and fostering a love of reading was the number one way to ensure we had the best chance of academic success. She made sure we did our homework, but she never arranged tutors or gave us workbooks – home was a place for family time, reading, crafts and adventures. School was for school.

I do remember my dad reading to us from a hefty story compendium and they were the most fantastical stories! My dad is dyslexic and it’s only since we’ve grown up that I found out my favourite of the stories (where a little girl drives to school but every time she turns the steering wheel it goes the other way and she ends up at a fun fair!) was made up and not read from the page. He threw in a few page turns for good measure. He’s still a great storyteller!


Has English always been a passion of yours or did you look to pursue any other subjects?

It has always been English. I remember sitting in my year 9 form room telling my tutor that I wanted to read English at University and maybe write a book or be poet laureate. He laughed. (I was academically sound but not very studious!)

I have always had a passion for drama and my BA is in English and Drama. To me, the two subjects have always been very closely woven together. They are one.

What book have you been / were you most excited to read to your children?

The Lorax by Dr Seuss was very special to me as a child. We put it on as a school musical when I was in year 6 and we were all utterly sucked into the book, completely absorbed by it. That Christmas, it was all I wanted. I’ve tried reading it to the girls and they love the idea of the Trufula Trees, but they are still a bit young to grasp its true meaning. I can’t wait until that penny drop moment when they realise the ‘unless’ slogan is about them standing up for what they believe in.


What’s your favourite book to teach to your students?

I love teaching Romeo and Juliet. Most kids have the concept of it being about two young lovers, but seeing them unravel and fall in love with the cleverness of Shakespeare’s writing fills me with such helium. Its themes are so transferable to the modern day and I find it is one of the most accessible of Shakespeare’s plays.


In your experience, what do you find makes students less likely to read?

We always say, and Hannah I’m sure you will agree (yes I do!) “they haven’t found the right book yet”, but I think it’s more than that. Regular reading for pleasure is a culture and a habit and that takes time – a long time! – to foster. Not having someone in their corner constantly reading to them and offering new and varied texts will make kids less likely to read. We all need to be that person for our own kids and the kids that look to us for inspiration!


What advice would you give to a parent struggling to get their child to read?

Reading isn’t always sitting quietly alone and with a chunky book. Reading is newspapers and magazines and blogs and websites and flyers and billboards and letters from the doctor and birthday cards from grandma. Gently making reading part of your everyday conversations is a great start. And discuss what you’ve read! That promotes understanding.


What books were on your bookshelf as a child?

Twinkle magazine, Beatrix Potter, The Gnomes books, Roald Dahl, The Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High, Fun Fax, and anything that had beautiful illustrations or a sentimental moral… my mum was (and still is!) a sucker for those. Come to think of it so am I!


What’re you reading currently?

Honestly? The National Trust handbook to find some new places to visit with the family. And I’m re-reading Frankenstein The Playscript by Phillip Pullman with a study group I’m running at the moment. It’s an interesting parallel to Mary Shelley’s original!


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