Here’s her thoughts on children’s reading and books in primary school settings.
How do we inspire children to read?
Not everyone has a mummy like me who has always encouraged me to read and get lost in a variety of different characters. As a child and even as an adult these characters provide us with imagination – a vital skill when you are younger. How are children meant to be assessed in schools for their writing if they are not being inspired? Come on, everyone has read The Tiger who Came for Tea –don’t all children imagine the tiger coming for tea at their house? Even at my age reading The Notebook hoping one day, far in the future my husband would tell me our stories – as soppy as that is, it’s true. No matter how we look at it books are inspiring and encouraging us to explore and fall in love with different characters and worlds. So why are children in primary schools, still reading the same books I read in school?
I started school in 2000, and have found whilst working in primary schools on placement children are still reading the Biff, Chip and Kipper books! From a quick Google search I found these books were written to fit around the National Curriculum, but now England has a new one – shouldn’t we question why a new series of books has not be issued too? I am not naïve enough to think these books do not fit a purpose as they are aimed at different reading levels and as a practitioner it is easier to assess what reading level each pupil is on based on phonics etc, but surely I now, as a trainee teacher should not be listening to children read the same books I read as at school. Although, from listening to readers I believe they can be inspiring as the characters always go on a wide array of adventures.
As an adult you choose to believe there are not any stigmas and stereotypes around how clever or less able a child is. However, we all know we’ve said it, it may not even be as a child but as an adult we may have said “smarty pants” or “don’t be so dumb”. However, as a trainee teacher we are taught and it is emphasised on how important self-esteem and confidence is in children. From my experience in schools, most of the time pupils are unaware directly the levels they are working at in reading; although when a new book is issued pupils automatically looked to see which one they had received. However, in groups of friends it was obvious there is teasing based on the varied reading levels – children can see the difference in the amount of words on the page in these books. If children are teased about their reading levels, why would they want to read?
With that said; who is there to support the higher ability readers? Lecturers and students on my course have shared many anecdotes on how there is a massive lack of support for gifted and talented readers – a group which is often marginalised in schools. When pupils are reading above their level and have read the compulsory Biff, Chip and Kipper books then pupils move on to books for the year above etc but eventually they run out of books available. One anecdote was a practitioner told a parent that her child would have re-read all the books available rather than the school get her access to Year Seven reading material. However, this poses an issue with how appropriate books are for their age. For example, I was placed in a Year One class and he was reading material for Year Three/Four – the storylines then do not seem appropriate for their age. Which poses the question…why is there not appropriate gifted and talented reading material for each year group available in all schools?
Please share your experiences of encouraging your children to read…