Here's a radical proposal - one to shock my fellow writers to the core. (This is my first ABBA post so I thought I'd kick off with some controversy.) I love writing. I want the children I meet to love writing too. But sometimes when I'm in schools, with my Visiting Author hat, I find the experience bitter-sweet. Why?
Because although the children I meet love hearing stories, acting out stories and inventing new stories, often the whole process of "writing down" the stories is still painful for them. I work mainly in primaries and even in Year 6 this is still the case for some children. Sometimes reading stories - the same stories that they love to hear - is a struggle too.
Children should read. It is the key that unlocks their educational future. It is also one of the greatest (and cheapest, most convenient and therefore most widely accesible) pleasures in life. Yet for many primary age children reading is not pleasure. It is dull - all about deciphering, not romping through a story.
We could get side-tracked into some educational debates here. But one thing that strikes me more and more: English is HARD. Learning to read and write is DIFFICULT.
No, you say. Surely it's as easy as One, Two, Three...A,B,C.
Well, just think about that. Most British children today learn using phonics, and a lot of them make rapid progress, sounding out the words. Until they reach the Tricky Words. One and Two are Tricky Words. Just look at them. They make no sense. You know how to pronounce them only because you have learnt them as individual words. The trouble is so many words are tricky. Such basic words as I and You and Me and There and Their and Go and Come and Who and....Sausage. All tricky. I could go on.
It doesn't have to be this way. In Italian all words are phonetic - their spelling is consistent with their sound. In fact, I'm told in Italian there is no word for Spelling! Think of that - and think of the time freed for more exciting things.
Maybe it is time to reform the English language - the spelling of it, anyway. Then there would be fewer seven, eight, nine year old children who although they have the ability to appreciate the compex dialogue and storyline of a film like Shrek are still struggling their way through The Gingerbread Man when it comes to the written page. Or who can't wait for the next instalment of The Twits when their teacher reads it to them (all children love Roald Dahl is the motto of every primary teacher) but can't manage to read the book themselves.
Of course it would be a bit of a downer for all of us old(er) folks who find One, Two, Three as obvious as falling off a wall. But wouldn't it be worth it to let more people in?
OK, time for the brick bats!