AN 87-YEAR-OLD Borders woman is still teaching today despite retiring from the classroom 25 years ago.

This week reporter Hilary Scott spoke to Margaret Macfarlane, who was inspired to write a book to help people read.

It is said that the best teachers never stop teaching. This is personified by Margaret who, despite ill health, is still using her 40 years' teaching experience to help others.

While many were experiencing boredom of lockdown, Margaret, of Peebles, decided to write an illustrated definitive guide to the teaching of reading.

Asked what inspired her, she said: “When the lockdown came I counted my blessings. I have a wonderful family and many friends.

"I had had a difficult time physically over seven years – [I had] sepsis where, thanks to the Borders General Hospital, my life was saved.

"I then had open heart surgery – again I survived. Then I stupidly fell backwards down the stairs and broke bones at the bottom of my spine.

“However, mentally and spiritually I was A1! At 87 my mind is absolutely clear and I am a Christian.”

'The results were amazing'

Margaret has a tried-and-tested approach to reading. “I started with single sounds, moved on to diagraphs, then different endings and sound combinations and finally lawbreakers, those words which do not obey sounding laws.

“The book was based on my 40 years' teaching experience, the last 20 of which I was deputy head of a very large primary school.

"I was responsible for teaching reading in Craighill School, Tain, Easter Ross.

"I had wonderful teachers who totally supported my programme.

"It was a two-year programme and at the end of P2 my 60 pupils were tested by one of the Highlands' education psychologists and the results were amazing."

'Now I have a mission'

The book took Margaret three months to write with the help of illustrator Trish Ward.

“I would like to pay tribute to my illustrator Trish. Not only is she a wonderful artist, she is also a lovely person.

"I dictated to Trish what to print and what I would like her to draw.”

Margaret, who is a retired elder of St Andrews Leckie Church, said the book has been sitting in her mind for years just waiting to be written.

She added: “The lockdown provided me with the inspiration and time to write it.

"Now I have a mission that everybody should get the chance to read.

"There are still adults in 2020 who cannot read. I long for people in depressed areas, refugee centres, asylum seekers, inmates in prison and youth detention centres to learn to read.”

A new chapter in life

The book is aimed at young and old, and Margaret feels strongly that every person should be given the tools to read.

After retiring over two decades ago, Margaret says she feels “very blessed” to continue teaching through her book.

And she’s not quite finished with this chapter of her life, as she plans to write more books in the future, but says: “I think I have done enough for the moment".

A saying penned by Professor Mason Cooley has proven true during this strange year in lockdown: 'Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are'.

And thanks to inspirational people like Margaret, more people will be able to enjoy the simple pleasure of reading through her wonderful teaching in her new book.

Please teach me to read is sold in Whitie’s book shop in Peebles. It is also available on Amazon.