It's everyone's job to get children reading!
When was the last time you got really lost in a book – the kind of lost where you walk up the stairs and bang into the bannister because your eyes are glued to the paperback you’re clutching in your hands – the kind of lost where you feel a huge sense of loss when you finish the last page? If your answer is ‘yesterday’ then congratulations – if you’re anything like me and everyone else who’s constantly scurrying from one thing to another, the answer is likely to be rather more depressing – maybe on that holiday you took way back in the summer?
The truth is reading is under pressure for all of us. And whereas for adults, it’s a real shame we don’t get to read so much anymore, for children it’s a serious worry. We are finding it harder and harder to make time for reading for pleasure these days - it’s competing against so many other activities that call on children and young people’s time, from school and homework to social media and Minecraft, but if we don’t find that time, children will simply lose the desire to read, will read much less, and will miss out on so much as a result.
Reading is harder than watching a film and takes more out of you than a video game, but the benefits are enormous. We know that reading for pleasure has a dramatic impact on children’s life outcomes – and this is as much about confidence and well-being as it is about educational achievements. Quite simply, children who read for pleasure are happier, healthier and do better in life than those who don't.
Books can take children to places and worlds they have never been before; they might learn how an old person lives with dementia or how a child lives in a war-torn country. In a world which has become increasingly complex, and at times frightening, reading can provide solace and context; books help us learn more about ourselves as well as the world around us, and fiction allows us to explore some very difficult subjects in a way that no other medium can.
So we need to get children reading. But as our President Michael Morpurgo once said: “It’s almost like a crusade in getting books in front of children in a way that excites them.” And the challenge continues once children can read for themselves, because just as they are becoming more confident in reading, along come the thrill of texting, gaming, and watching endless YouTube videos.
It’s why we’re launching our Time to Read campaign, which is aimed at getting parents, teachers, grandparents and everyone who spends time with children to make time to read. Shared reading – even when children can read for themselves – is so important, as is allowing them to choose their own books, encouraging them to see books as fun. As part of the campaign, we are:
· giving schools a fantastic book pack for every Reception-aged child to take home to read with their parents to support their reading habit;
· sending every primary school in the country our Great Books Guide (60 carefully chosen and brilliant books we know children will love)
· holding events with fantastic authors around the country as part of Children’s Book Week to promote the pleasure of reading and the importance of finding those ten or so minutes every day to share a book
· running a series of free events for teachers this autumn exploring why reading for pleasure makes a difference, how making time to read starts with great books – and how to get children at all ages and stages reading using practical ideas and recommendations for great new books. Visit the BookTrust website to book your place: http://www.booktrust.org.uk/programmes/primary/schools-events/
In the meantime, if you want to get the children at your school excited about reading, why don’t you try one of these ideas?
- Turn a reading corner into a treasure trove of best books. If you don’t have the space or stock for all of the titles, perhaps select an age category or theme (such as magic, animals or school) and tailor it around that.
- Make a fun display of great books – these could be arranged by decade or age group, whatever works for your readers!
- Put together a suggested reading list on a noticeboard.
Brilliant book events
- Why not invite an author or illustrator into school? They host great workshops which will inspire pupils to read a new genre and author.
- Arrange a book swap so children who can’t afford to buy new books will have the chance to read something new.
- Get children to draw their favourite book jacket, or re-create their own best book in a new format – for example turn it into a comic, or film a book trailer on their smart phone.
- Hold a competition or a vote – what are the event attendees’ top ten books? And out of those, whose book will win? Vote on characters, action, adventure, illustrations and any other elements that stand out – a TopTrumps for books!
- Perform plays based on favourite stories.
BookTrust is the largest reading charity in the UK. Our programmes provide books for children at crucial stages of their school life. It’s why we’ve developed programmes, used by schools across the country, to help teachers and librarians win over reluctant readers and encourage avid readers to try new genres. It’s why we campaign to raise awareness of the importance of reading. It’s also why we make sure that no child grows up in a home without books, by giving out five million books and resources every year, reaching every baby, toddler and Reception-age child in the country through our fantastic network of local authorities, health visitors, libraries, children’s centres and schools. To find out more about our programmes visit: www.booktrust.org.uk/programmes
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