Why Rosemary Sutcliff didn’t learn to read until she was ten or more

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Rosemary Sutcliff did not read until she was about ten. Over at Facebook , Anne McFadgen – thank you Anne – has pointed out recently that it was “because her mother never read down to her that Rosemary Sutcliff made the conscious decision that she wouldn’t learn to read”.  Anne quotes from Rosemary Sutcliff’s autobiography of her early years Blue Remembered Hills:

When I was about six, she (my mother) decided that the time had come for me to learn to read. And that was where she made her mistake. Instead of merely sitting me down in front of Peter Rabbit, The Secret Garden or The Jungle Books and telling me to get on with it, she provided a dreadful book about a Rosy-Faced Family who Lived Next-door and Had Cats That Sat on Mats, and expected me to get on with that.

I was outraged – I, who had walked the boards with the Crummles (Nicholas Nickleby), and had fought beside Beowulf in the darkened Hall of Heriot. I took one look, and decided that the best way of making sure that I should never meet the Rosy-Faced Family or any of their unspeakable kind in the future was not to learn to read at all. So I didn’t, and my mother never quite had the hardness of heart to stop reading to me

One comment

  1. I’m sure I left out an exclamation mark after “Halls of Heriot” – you can really feel the utter disgust ringing through her words! To manage life as successfully as she did given her physical difficulties, it’s clear that Rosemary Sutcliff must have had determination in spades – here we see it in action :)

    Interestingly, Rosemary Sutcliff later discovered that Kipling never learned to read until he was 9 years old either – yet another point of connection with her favourite author.

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