Helen Norris

I work as  Graduate Research Assistant in the ReadOxford Lab.

MY interest in languages started a long time ago. I studied Latin and Greek at Oxford University. This is useful because so many of the English words we use today come from Latin or Greek. I then became interested in how our minds work, and in particular, how we learn to read. How does our understanding of written stories develop? How do we learn new words, both what they look like and what they mean? Before I came to work at ReadOxford I studied for a MSc in Psychology at Oxford Brookes University where I investigated whether the vividness of a story with an unknown word in it influenced how well a child learnt the new word. 
I have two sons, aged 7 and 13, and I have enjoyed watching how they both learnt to read. My younger son still enjoys a bedtime story, where we take it in turn to read a passage. We are currently enjoying 'The Iron Man' by Ted Hughes. My older son enjoys graphic novels and no longer wants to read a bedtime story! But I still remember the time when we completed our first novel together. It was 'Pig Heart Boy' by Malorie Blackman. What a powerful story.


My favourite word

My favourite childhood book

One of my favourite words is luminous. Its main meaning is radiating or reflecting light. It can also be used to describe a writer's words if they are particularly intelligent, clear and insightful. It comes from the Latin word 'lumen.' I think the word itself seems to glow, although I'm not sure whether this particular combination of letters really does glow, or if that is just because I know what its meaning is.That's one of the many mysteries of language and how our brains process and respond to it!

My favourite book is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. In fact, if I were allowed to, I would choose the whole Narnia series, as they're all equally brilliant. But the book that first captured me was 'The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe.' Who wouldn't be excited by the idea that you could walk through a wardrobe into another world? The writer creates vivid magical landscapes, powerful, engaging characters and a strong story line with an epic struggle between good and evil. His words painted such powerful images in my mind that  I never wanted to watch the films which were made, in case they destroyed these forever.

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