Sunday, 17 July 2016

Enjoying Reading In School - Emma Barnes

I've been thinking this week about how fantastic schools can be in encouraging children's love of reading.

This week I was visiting a primary school, doing workshops and talks. As I always do, I talked to the kids about the books they themselves loved reading. Often it's the same handful of books and authors that are mentioned: Roald Dahl, David Walliams, Wimpy Kid, Jacqueline Wilson. Michael Morpurgo as a sop to the more literary end of things. However, when I asked Year 6 what their favourite books were, one boy immediately said “Coraline”. This immediately led on to a great conversation about what creates fear and suspense in writing. Another girl was reading Emily Windsnap. We talked about the Hobbit. The Percy Jackson series (as well as Harry Potter). And...this is unusual...some of the titles they mentioned I hadn't actually heard of myself.

It was great to see that reading was so much a part of their lives, and enjoyed. This wasn't a school without challenges, either. For one thing, it wasn't in a well-off area – the opposite – and it had a lot of children for whom English wasn't their first language.

What it did have was a library, and bookshelves in the classroom filled with a varied selection of books: lots of attractive covers, a wide variety of authors, different topics and reading/interest levels. And the children had time to read them, too. They had a book on their desks, that they could read during silent reading time.

This week I was also contacted by another school which had chosen me as their Author of the Year. They had all been reading my books and as a result had come up with a long list of questions. I did my best to answer some of them in a video here.

Both these schools – and many others- are doing a fantastic job in encouraging reading, and making it something fun and exciting, and hopefully a habit in their children's lives. The sad thing is that it often feels like government itself isn't much interested in this – but only in more testing, more spelling, reading and writing very much not for pleasure. I did a post about this here.

We've got a new government. It's got quite a lot on its plate. I hope it might have some time to spare to think about promoting reading for pleasure, too. There is ample research that reading for pleasure is hugely important for educational outcomes. It's time the goverment started actively promoting that.

Some helpful steps:

  • Every school should have a library and librarian 
  • Children should have time for daily reading of a book of their choice
  • OFSTED should look at whether schools are encouraging reading for pleasure
  • Children's books should be part of teacher training for primary school teachers. 

 And if they stopped closing down all our public libraries, then that would help too.


Emma's Website
Emma’s Facebook Fanpage
Emma on Twitter - @EmmaBarnesWrite
Emma's Wild Thing series for 8+ about the naughtiest little sister ever. (Cover - Jamie Littler)
"Hilarious and heart-warming" The Scotsman

 Wolfie is a story of wolves, magic and snowy woods...
(Cover: Emma Chichester Clark)
"Funny, clever and satisfying..." Books for Keeps

1 comment:

Sue Purkiss said...

Sounds like a lovely school!