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Saturday, 8 June 2013

Reading for pleasure

Yesterday I went into a school in Nottinghamshire to promote my book, Last Chance Angel, and also to talk about my love of reading and writing. I was given an incredibly warm welcome and the students were delightful. The talk took place in the library, a bright airy space with motivational banners around the walls, newspapers, magazines, computers and approximately 10,000/12,000 books.

 I was in heaven! Yet when I asked the first group of 25 girls as to how many of them read for pleasure, only 6 hands were raised. In the second group it was closer to 50% but when I asked those girls who had not put their hands up, as to why they didn't read for pleasure, the common theme seemed to be that it was boring. I found this very sad as this particular school has two warm, approachable and dedicated librarians who are committed, through various enterprises, to instilling a love of books.

Recently I read an article in the Daily Telegraph about the importance of reading for pleasure. Research carried out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on education and reading found that future social mobility and hopefully, by definition, more pathways to a  successful and satisfying career and life in general, is more likely if, at the age of 15, young people read for pleasure. In the U.K. girls have a better attitude towards books and reading, than boys. Bearing in mind that many of the girls I met did not read for pleasure, I can only conclude that the figure for boys would have been lower and yet...

At break time, at this school, on this particular day of the week, there is a reading time in the library. All the students who were there reading for pleasure on the day I visited, were boys. Some were reading books, a couple were reading magazines but they were reading and they were enthusiastic and charming and talked extremely intelligently about the books they were reading.

So, how do we get more of our children reading for pleasure and thus give them a better chance in life of achieving their potential? I'm no expert, just a Mum of three now grown-up children, one of whom is dyslexic, so I do know of the difficulties some young people face when confronted with pages of text. There has been a lot of criticism of schools, the government, the national curriculum, the distraction of computer games etc. etc. But, to my mind, the problem begins a lot closer to home. In fact it begins at home. I was shocked to be told recently that some children do not know what nursery rhymes are. For my children some of their earliest and happiest memories are of us sitting on the sofa leafing through a book of nursery rhymes. This was one of our favourites and we still say it now sometimes when sitting around the table and a recalcitrant pea shoots off the plate!

 
I eat my peas with honey
I've done it all my life
It makes the peas taste funny
But it keeps them on the knife
 

 
My own grandmother was not a great reader but she knew lots of nursery rhymes and she remembered them for her whole life. She was 91 when she died and still able to recite Sing a Song of Sixpence or Humpty Dumpty, as my own small daughter listened entranced, curled up at her great-grandma's feet.

I know that I am preaching to the converted here, as all of you reading this blog are probably avid readers and lovers of books but we will also be parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends and maybe in some small way we can encourage the children we know to find that right book which will open them up to the joys of reading and to the restorative qualities of stillness, quietness and the ability to be absorbed in another world. For, as I said to the students in Nottingham on Thursday, I do believe that there is the right book out there for every child and I also believe that books can change lives for the better. We have a duty as adults to help those children find that right book, for their sakes and for the sake of Society as a whole.

Thank-you for reading and I hope the sun shines on your week.

If you would like to catch up with me on Facebook, I now have an author page at alexgutteridgeauthor

2 comments:

  1. I was a primary school teacher when the National Curriculum was first introduced. It was traumatic but one of the things that saddened me most was that we would no longer have time for story time at the end of the day. We could use texts but only small sections for purposes of analysis. When I was at school story time was my favourite time of the day. I can still remember some of the stories our teachers read to us. I only hope they have reintroduced story time for primary school children because that, to me, is one of the best ways to show children how exciting books can be.

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  2. I totally agree. Primary children are so tired by the end of the day and what could be nicer and more comforting than to have a story ready to you? I used to love Jackanory too, a nice warm drink, something to eat and curled up in the chair with my cat,Thomas, school over for another day. Bliss!

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