Friday, 9 December 2016

Normalise it!

Horse pulling the chariot of the Sun.
Note the horse also has wheels (National Museum, Denmark)
I was in Copenhagen recently and went to the National Museum. To get in, I had to pay 75 kroner (about £8.50). If I had been under 18, it would have been free. But if I had been me,  accompanied by a young person under 18, it would have cost me only 60 kroner. Isn't that a brilliant idea? Encouraging people to involve children with cultural or educational activities by making it not just free but profitable to do so - it's genius. And it works on a more subtle level, too. It shows that the entire country believes in the value of children learning about the world around them and becoming embedded in culture.

In the UK, entry to many museums is free at any age. But within the museums, there are often special exhibitions you have to pay to enter. Perhaps those should adopt this policy of a discount if you take a child. Maybe people would actually seek out children - nephews and nieces, grandchildren, children of friends - to take to a museum. 

Someone told me the other day that where he has his hair cut, children can have a free hair-cut as long as they read aloud while it happens.

Prehistoric trephined skull (hole
cut or drilled as medical
treatment), National Musuem
There must be lots of things we could do to encourage parents in getting their children reading and knowing and being involved in our shared culture. Maybe bookshops could offer a discount on a children's book when you buy an adult book (and vice versa) to encourage reading across the ages. It wouldn't cost them any more than the 3-for-2 deals. Maybe cafes could give a free drink to children who are reading (or being read to) while waiting for their meal. It wouldn't cost much and could increase footfall. I'd have chosen the cafe that did that over a cafe that didn't. Even just a cafe that had a box of children's books alongside the newspapers would be nice.

Treating reading and cultural engagement as something that is encouraged by society as a whole, and mirrored by society as a whole, so that it's not just associated with school, will surely raise levels of literacy and cultural understanding? Children reading or listening to books in cafes and hairdressers or on buses or whatever, making it visible to children who don't read for pleasure or aren't read to, would slowly have a wider impact, too, surely? At least, it wouldn't do any harm.

Have you heard of any other imaginative initiatives like these? Perhaps if we all share and encourage them, some might be replicated elsewhere.


Joan Lennon said...

I like all those ideas! Another, related, thing that I saw at the Storytelling Centre Cafe was a jar of stones on each table. Each stone had a word painted on it, and the label encouraged you to use them to start a story to tell each other while you waited for your food. Not for toddlers, who would most likely eat the stones, but could be a lot of fun!

Stroppy Author said...

Oh, that's nice! Yes, it doesn't have to be restricted to children -getting everyone being creative and engaged is good.

Susan Price said...

Brilliant ideas!