I’ve been round this block many times before. I even met your schools minister, Nick Gibb, to discuss how we might all cooperate to foster reading for pleasure. He seemed to be in complete agreement that reading for pleasure was a key element in helping children access the curriculum.
It’s not a mystery as to why or how this happens. Children who know how to browse and choose books, and who read widely and often, are immersed in what we might call the strategies of continuous prose. This is a form of language very different from everyday conversation, and to “get” it needs loads of practice reading and writing.
Reading a lot also creates a body of knowledge of both a “how” and a “what”. The how is how writing builds scenes, makes points, unfolds and concludes. The “what” is the emotions, facts, principles and ideas we meet as we read. This is a reservoir of knowledge and understanding children will draw on as they encounter the curriculum.
One of the curiosities of life is that schools are not obliged to have libraries, but prisons are. Step one, then, is to make it compulsory for schools, too. This has to be backed up withstep two: ringfenced money to support schools’ libraries, along with the hiring and training of librarians.
Has your school or town lost it’s library? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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