Reading matter

The summer reading challenge is on and, despite it being open to over fours, E was signed up to take part by the librarians in our local library this week. She has to read six books over the summer. Won’t be a problem. Does reading Maisy’s Bathtime six times a day count?

I mention reading because the Telegraph got itself in to a frenzy last week when someone in education came out and said that children have trouble reading and listening to stories because they are easily distracted by other… *shiny shiny*

I’m sorry, what? Oh yes, by gadgets and other noisy irrelevances. If you notice the other links in the sidebar related to this story it seems this is becoming some kind of crusade for them, rather like the endless letters they had a few years back from old men stockpiling tungsten lightbulbs. Seven stories in the last five years.

Clearly I’m not in a position to comment on broader educational issues (though that probably won’t stop me trying) but some of this is common sense isn’t it? We live in a country where libraries are facing massive funding cuts (and in any case haven’t been decently funded for years) high street bookshops are dwindling and Kindles are on the rise. So the decline of the book and the rise of gadgets is a wider trend and hardly something to knock kids over.

E loves books. It was inevitable, our entire house is furnished with them. She already owns loads of books and is a regular library member and Bookstart Club member. This week S found her standing against the sofa turning the pages of a library book about ducks by herself. (She also loves ducks, I’m pretty sure she’s going to be a vet when she grows up, although when she plays with her building blocks I’m equally convinced she’ll be an architect or engineer. Either way, she’s going to be in debt with university fees for decades…)

She is aware of gadgets. I try very hard not to use my phone when I’m with her so I’m not distracted by it. I do use it to take pictures of her though and she does like to look at them so she does know how to flip through the touchscreen photo gallery. I don’t know if this impresses me or terrifies me.

One thing that struck me as odd about the article is that woman was bemoaning the rise of gadgets and people not listening to stories anymore. She mentions watching Jackanory. I imagine when she was a child watching Jackanory, the Telegraph were publishing letters complaining that TV was stopping children from reading stories any more. Despite only watching half an hour once in a while, we still know that there are at least three programmes on Cbeebies that are based around telling a story. I don’t think she’s got much to worry about really.

All through history people have told stories. The methods have changed but the essential is the same. But if you’re worried about the method, change it. I don’t want E turning into a gogglebox so I don’ t have the TV on much. But gadgets will be part of her future and with them will come all sorts of opportunities to tell stories that we haven’t yet dreamed of.

What is important is to remember that this is supposed to be enjoyable. I always read books, I loved it from an early age and the teachers I responded to at school were the ones who also made their subjects fun and enjoyable, the ones that communicated their passion. So many people talk about reading purely in terms of literacy and meeting targets. Of course children are turned off if that’s your attitude.

And so, to foster my daughter’s love of reading, I shall pick up Maisy’s Bathtime for the twenty-seventh time this week (I know all the words already) and read it again. I now know how my mother felt about Beaky the Greedy Duck and Rapunzel. But it must have done some good – I’m a great reader. If I can manage to ensure E grows up being a great reader too, then I shall consider myself as having done a good job.

“It’s Maisy’s bathtime. She runs the water and puts in some bubbles…”

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