From my previous posts you will know that reading for pleasure is important.
I can quote statistics till the cows come home, but knowing that your child needs to be reading for pleasure and should be wanting to, and actually finding a way of making that happen are two entirely different things.
I have blogged in the past about things you can do at home to help your child/ren with this, and one of the things I always mention, is that regular visits to the library will help…
…if your local library is going to stay open for the forseeable future, and if you are willing to take them there.
Of course, children can go to the library on their own when they’re older, but that’s too late for reading to be instilled as an easy, fluid behaviour. Children’s minds are most flexible up to the age of five.
If you can instill all the basic knowledge in them by this point, they will be able to read and not remember a time when they couldn’t, and they will assume that it was easy, because they learned at a time when their learning ability was at its most receptive to new information.
From there you can build on that solid foundation until they can read in the true sense of the word.
- with clear ability to recognise and decipher words,
- with fluency so that they sound like they’re actually reading and not impersonating Marvin the Paranoid Android from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,
- with a clear understanding of what the words they are reading mean, and the ability to talk to you intelligently about what they’ve just read.
To do that, your child needs regular exposure to as many books as possible in their daily environment.
Many parents believe that they shouldn’t have to be this hands on with their children in terms of getting them to read. They prefer to leave this all to the school. After all, that is what we send our children to school for, right?
Which is all well and good, but generally, in school time, children spend their time reading what they are told to read by teachers. They are not given much freedom to read what they want. Books from reading schemes, books the teacher has chosen and books that are foisted upon children by well meaning adults (like me), all have the flavour of an educational experience – and as we all know, there isn’t a huge amount of pleasure to be derived from something you feel you have to do, regardless of how nice it is in reality.
Reading scheme books are constructed with a purpose. They are made, initially, to repeat simple high frequency words as often as possible so that a child learns them quickly and easily, and they lodge in a child’s head. Anyone, like me, who grew up with the Ladybird reading scheme books will know what I mean.
Here is Peter
here is Jane.
I like Peter.
I like Jane.
This is Pat.
Pat is a dog.
I like Pat.
Peter likes Pat.
All good stuff, but it’s hardly going to keep you up at night wondering who did it or what is going to happen next.
Could it be that Jane might like Pat too?
Reading scheme books are not known for their fascinating stories or being about things that children are really interested in. They are tools. Expecting a child to learn a love of reading from exposure to books from a reading scheme is like me expecting you to be the Stig because you’ve read the Haynes manual for the Ferrari Testarossa. The two things don’t go together.
Children need exposure to, and the ability to browse and discover books of all types, books that range far and wide over topic and subject, books that contain adventure and excitement and worlds of imagination that will hook them and keep them hooked.
That’s what we want for our school library.
We recognise that our parents free time is pretty precious. Our lives are all so busy. If we can create a library at school which offers all the pleasures of a public library, but which is available for the children within school hours, and to parents and their children after school, and where children can take books home with them, and change them regularly, we think we can help bridge the gap between reading for educational purposes and reading for pleasure, and see a massive hike in the number of children we are helping become fluent, confident readers.
It won’t be a space for reading scheme books – we are going to house these separately.
The new library will be a space for exploring every kind of book a child can imagine. It will be a space of inspiration and wonder. It will be a space where the cover of a book is a door into a new world. It will be a space where children will learn to love books and love reading without even realising they’re learning.
That is what our library could be…