Reading for pleasure is a huge thing in UK schools at the moment. Not only are inspectors looking for how we teach basic skills such as decoding, blending, retrieval and inference but they also are judging schools on how effectively they encourage reading for pleasure. And I don’t disagree with this focus. Reading for pleasure is so important- it allows us to practice our comprehension skills on a regular basis but also reading teaches us so much about the world around us, parts of the world we’ll never get to see, and about ourselves. If I could wish for something for every child in my class it’s that they will grow up to be a reader of some sort- I don’t mean that I wish them to be reading classics all the time (of course I’d be over the moon if they grew up and were working their way through Ulysses… and got further with it than I did) but, instead, to find the type of books that work for them and enjoy them.
Part of this is exposing children to a range of different books at a young age. Allowing them to realise it’s ok not to like some books and to love others, that it’s ok to read the same book over and over again, that a relationship with a book is like a relationship with another person- you may not understand why others like a particular one so much but you just need to accept it and find one that you love just as much too.
Sometimes they do love the books I want them to love; before Christmas my class were clamouring for me to continue reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe even when we got to break time- “Can’t we just stay in and read?” However, other times I have realised that I’m hitting my head against a brick wall and they’re just not going to enjoy it. The particular example I’m thinking of is when I tried to read Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone to my class last year and they spent the whole time looking bored and moaning every time I said it was time to read. After finally giving up (after a week of “give it a go… it might grow on you”) I let them choose what to read (from a preselected range) and they absolutely loved Jacqueline Wilson’s The Suitcase Kid.
Recently I found the Booktrust list of 100 books to read before you are 14- http://www.booktrust.org.uk/news-and-blogs/news/222/
It’s a very comprehensive list full of some fabulous children’s books but any list of this sort will always raise issues and questions. Are the books too didactic? Are the books simply reminiscences of the compiling adult audiences childhood memories rather than books that would appeal to children today? Alternatively, are there too many contemporary books that mean we’re missing out some classics that should be the staple of any child’s reading education?
A note from Gen: I’m part of the Zero To Hero challenge. I wrote this post this morning as a way of really engaging in some of the issues/questions that led me to begin the blog. Coincidentally, this afternoon I found out that today’s task was to do exactly that… so I’ve re-edited it and I’m going to keep this post as my Zero To Hero task for the day.
(Many thanks to Karen at The Graphics Fairy for the vintage image of the book).