Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Obituary - Miss Read 1913-2012: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Obituary - Miss Read 1913-2012: News

Article excerpt

Over 40 years, prolific author Miss Read created a cosy idyll of thatched cottages, spinster teachers and two-room village schoolhouses. Hers was a world of gentle ups and downs, touched, but never altered, by modernity.

Dora Jessie Shafe was born in April 1913. After the First World War, Mr and Mrs Shafe and their three daughters moved to a smallholding in Kent. Eight-year-old Dora took to village life immediately. For her, its centre was always the school, with its old-fashioned desks, strict discipline and rote learning.

At Bromley County School for Girls, she dreamed of becoming a journalist. But her father had strict views about suitable professions for women, so she instead spent two years training to be a teacher at Homerton College, Cambridge.

Between 1933 and 1940, she taught in a small school in Middlesex. Here, she met fellow teacher Douglas Saint; they married in 1940. The new Mrs Saint left teaching to have a daughter, Jill. But she returned to the village classroom six years later, this time as a supply teacher.

Still harbouring journalistic ambitions, Mrs Saint began to write short stories for Punch magazine, drawing on her experiences of teaching classes of 40 pupils. In School Dinner for 40, a teacher admonishes "silly pupils" for leaving fat on the sides of their plates. "They won't grow big and strong if they don't eat every bit of it," the teacher chides.

Mrs Saint also began writing articles for TES. It was one of these that attracted the attention of a publisher, who persuaded her to write a book. …

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