Review policy

Due to time pressures, I am unable to commit to reviewing books at the moment. However, please feel free to recommend or discuss by tweeting @MsTick68 or commenting on here. Thank you!

Sunday 30 January 2011

Born to read

This blog is another "off topic" one. It is in response Save the Children's Born To campaign, to prevent child mortality and allow more children worldwide to achieve their potential.

I was born to be a reader. I was at Primary school in the 1970s, and as I have said before, it took me a long time to learn to read. I went to a small (100 pupils) school North West of London, a commuter belt small town. We had a great library, with a wonderful children's librarian called Adrienne. Once I had mastered reading, it was the access to a wealth of books, and Adrienne taking me seriously as a reader, that gave me the incentive to read widely.

There are two types of reading that children need to do in order to be successful readers, once they have mastered the basic decoding (sounding out of words). One is to be able to return to what is comfortable. Anyone with a close relationship with a small child knows this; that a child will have a loved book that they thrust into your hands and demand "Read it to me!", and for the umpteenth time you share the adventures of Spot, or Thomas the Tank Engine, or The Gruffalo. Children need the comfort and support of repetition and familiarity; to know that the story is fixed and to feel successful, even when they can read independently. So owning their own books is vitally important, as is the work of Booktrust in giving books to children at various points in their development.

The other is the chance to read widely, and to autonomously choose books. Jacqueline Rose and others have pointed out that the term "children's literature" is problematic- after all, children do not have "free choice" in what they read. Their books at home are generally chosen by their parents or relatives. Their books in school are chosen by their teachers. So access to a range of books in a library is vital for them to develop their discrimination, taste and understanding of genre. I remember being almost overwhelmed by the choice, but Adrienne the librarian would talk to me about what I enjoyed and didn't enjoy about my reading. She helped me to explore books and develop my taste.

In 1992, award-winning French teacher and novelist Daniel Pennac wrote The Rights of the Reader (Comme un Roman). It was translated into English and wonderfully illustrated by Quentin Blake in 2006.  It is a wonderful book, based around 10 rights. The right to skip, the right not to finish a book, and the right to read anything that he claims for young readers I think demonstrates the importance of libraries for young readers. Some experimentation will lead to wonderful discoveries, but some will not. I remember the joy of discovering Elizabeth Enright's Thimble Summer. I remember the heat of the sun and the smell of the grass as I lay in my back garden reading it when I was 9 or 10. I remember the disappointment of reading Scott O'Dell's best selling The Island of Blue Dolphins  which I didn't enjoy at all.

Next Saturday is the Day of Action for Libraries. All over the United Kingdom people will be visiting their libraries to stage Read-Ins, to demonstrate their support, recognition of the importance of libraries and to demonstrate to council leaders and to the government that in this time of economic downturn, cutting library funding and closing libraries is not a good decision. Libraries provide free access to books when families may have to cut back on spending. They provide internet access for people who may not be able to afford it (1.7 million children in the UK live in severe poverty, according to Save The Children), and 17% of the population has never been online. Children without access to the internet at home can access it at the library. People wanting to use e-readers can download e-books for free at libraries.

Next Saturday I am working, but I will pop into the library near where I work, where I have a library card, as well as one for my home borough. I may borrow a DVD. I may take out some books on the Italian lakes, where I am hoping to go on holiday. Please consider joining your local library, if you don't belong already. Next Saturday may be the perfect time to do so! Take proof of address and photo ID, and rediscover the joy of reading voraciously. For more information see Voices for the Library.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your Born to post. Good luck with the competition.


    Save the Children