One of the nation’s most popular children’s authors, Michael Morpurgo, wrote a column in the London Evening Standard on Friday, expressing his thoughts on the need for children to be encouraged to read.
The author of War Horse, The Butterfly Lion and Shadow called for parents and teachers to pass on an enthusiasm for literature to their children. In his introduction Morpurgo said trying to inspire a love of literature was either ‘very energising and postive’ or ‘very depressing’.
Which way it goes depends on the quality of teaching and whether there is a flourishing library. That books are available is a right of every child, and his or her way to access the literature of their country. But it is also critical to have people who can pass on the passion for reading to them. On this we are patchy.
Through our work with schools and looked after children, The Reader Organisation has numerous project workers/managers who are the people Morpurgo is calling for, and what’s more he’s met two of them – our Young Person’s Project Manager, Sam Shipman and Project Worker Anna Fleming.
Along with other project workers, Sam and Anna have read with plenty of children who were reluctant to read, but have completely revolutionised their outlook. Not only has our young person’s team encouraged children to enjoy reading, they have read some of Morpurgo’s very own books including War Horse, Private Peaceful and Mr Skip.
Michael Morpurgo went on to criticise the way reading is employed in schools:
They [teachers], through no fault of their own, have been encouraged by this Government and the last to use literature as a tool in the Key Stage testing system. The culture is skewed for results, but if you teach with that aim there is little space for children to become inspired with a love of what they are reading.
Although we read with children, The Reader provides a friendly, relaxed and completely non-academic environment without tests or demanding questions. We facilitate the shared reading of enjoyable texts which really capture children’s imaginations. It seems again, we are providing what Morpurgo is calling for:
You need teachers who enjoy books for themselves, who have been encouraged to become readers while they were training, so that they can pass on the love of good writers to children. And you need time in the curriculum to enable teachers to share their love of a great book or poem, a storytelling at the end of every school day for half an hour. No comprehension test afterwards, simply enjoyment.
Morpurgo’s article follows a series of articles in the London Evening Standard documenting the high rates of illiteracy in the city, with one in three children not owning a book of their own and 80% of parents “struggling to find an opportunity to read with their children.” This is something The Reader strives to correct in our attempts to introduce a reading revolution.