Readers of Books for Keeps do not need me to blow a trumpet on behalf of the importance of reading to children, whether it’s a bedtime story or a story read to a class or library group. Apart from the pleasure of the story itself, listening to stories sets the groundwork for strong listening and memory skills as well as creating that all important interest in the written word. It is also well known that parental involvement in reading has more of an influence on a child’s achievement than any other factor.
During their Children’s Laureateships Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson were passionate advocates for the importance of stories and story time. But more needs to be done. A National Literacy Trust study found that one in five pupils feels that their mother does not encourage them to read. One in three pupils said they receive no strong encouragement from their father. As a result The Family Reading Campaign was launched in January this year (coordinated by the National literacy Trust on behalf of the Department for Education and Skills). It is targeting organisations concerned with parenting, child development and education, and asking them to be proactive in encouraging parents to share books with children.
Now a Times Educational Supplement survey (13.4.07) has found that while all infant children are read to either every day or most days, half of teachers in Year 6 have cut down in the past five years as they prepare for Sats. The survey found that one in three teachers had less time to read books to their class than they did five years ago, although nearly one in five had more time. A Year 6 teacher is quoted as saying: ‘I would like to read much more to my class but it is extremely difficult in Year 6. We have to prepare the children for the 11-plus in January and then we get the Sats in May. There are so many competing interests that something has to give.’
As part of his campaign as Laureate, Michael Morpurgo wanted the government to focus more on creativity than on targets. At school level one of the ways that this can be translated is school leaders strongly supporting teachers who devote time to reading aloud. Suggestions for good books to read aloud together with helpful ideas about how to go about it can be found on www.tes.co.uk/readaloud .
In this issue of BfK we launch a new series of articles, ‘Reading in the Middle Years (9-11)’ which follows on from our ‘Early Years Reading’ series ( BfK Nos 150-154). Do such confident readers still need to be read aloud to? Series editor Alison Kelly of Roehampton University argues in the first article of the series that reading aloud to 9-11 year-olds is critically important.