Saturday, 29 August 2015

Priorities - John Dougherty

I've been sitting here wracking my brains over what to write for my post this month, and really, the only thing I want to write about is something that's already been covered by the inestimable Dawn Finch, writing a post for us here.

It is, of course, the recent Reading Agency report on reading for pleasure, which collated the findings of the most robust research on the subject. Please click on the link above to read Dawn's informative and thought-provoking post; but here are a couple of extracts from it:

"The report confirms that people who read for pleasure benefit from a huge range of wider outcomes including increased empathy, alleviation or reduction in the symptoms of depression and dementia... an improved sense of wellbeing... a higher sense of social inclusion, a greater tolerance and awareness of other cultures and lifestyles, and better communication skills."

"Children and young people who read show a significantly enhanced emotional vocabulary and cope better with education and social engagement."

And besides all this, of course, from an educational point of view - well, we all know that the best way to improve at something is to practise it over and over. And the best way to get someone to practise a skill is to get them to want to do it. So it seems self-evident that if - as the politicians keep telling us - improving literacy skills is a priority, a good way to do that is to get children reading for pleasure.

So: why isn't reading for pleasure central to the primary school curriculum? Why aren't school libraries statutory? And why are library services nationwide being defunded, hollowed out and deprofessionalised?

Let's not stop asking those questions.


John's Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face series, illustrated by David Tazzyman, is published by OUP.



Sue Bursztynski said...

Agreed, but school libraries, at least, even in this part of the world, are being closed down or at best staffed with unqualified people, because: "they're getting it all on the Internet, waste of money!" And you can't make them mandatory when governments, to save money, have given principals the right to decide how the school's money is spent. Needless to say there has recently been an inquiry into corruption in school leadership in this state.

Thank goodness we still have our local libraries - I have heard what's happening in Britain!

Sue Purkiss said...

It can't be said too often, John...

Sheena Wilkinson said...

When I started secondary school English teaching in 1994, our wonderful Head of Dept positively encouraged Private Reading periods for all classes -- the pupils read; the teacher read; nobody had to write a review or fill in a log, and the teacher didn't cast aspersions on the pupils' choice of reading matter, so long as it was a book and not a text book. It wasn't unknown for me to have three or four such periods on a Friday, and everyone loved them. When I left teaching, two years ago, this would have been seen as a complete waste of time. There is still an excellent and professionally-staffed library, but that's certainly no longer the case in every school, and we are all the poorer for it.