Wednesday 11 March 2015

"Hey - what he said is in the book!"

When I do my poetry shows in schools, I always say that very nearly everything I'm saying can be found in my books. So, some of what I'm saying are obviously poems - they rhyme and have very strong rhythm. Other poems are more like monologues or stand-up routines, but they too are in my books. So I get to the end of a chunk of about 10 or 15 minutes and I say, you can find that in  'Michael Rosen's Big Book of Bad Things' or wherever.

Today, at Eversley Primary School in Enfield I had a very nice experience. There was a queue of children waiting for me to sign their books and I heard a boy suddenly say, 'Hey, I've found that bit where he was saying that stuff about his Dad…' And then he started to read it out loud to the boy who was with him. 

Apart from being personally gratified, there is a bit of theory connected with this. I am very keen on making the connection between the spoken and the written - or vice versa - the written with the spoken. Reading and writing are not easy for all children and there may be several reasons for this (not just the one, that the phonics experts claim i.e. that the children who find reading and writing difficult are lacking phonic awareness or some such). For some children it's getting the sense of sequences of words. So even when they can 'voice' what's on the page (i.e. read it out loud), it's not really hanging together meaningfully. 

I hope that for some children - quite apart from enjoyment and meanings they get from what I write - there is this other kind of connection: what Rosen is saying can be found on the page; what's on the page can be found in what he's saying. And when this 'clicks', it's another way in which we can help children become 'reading writers' and 'writing readers'. 

So, as I say, it was a highly gratifying moment to hear that boy getting so excited to find that what I had said earlier in my performance was written down in 'Michael Rosen's Big Book of Bad Things'.

As it happens, that's also the point about my online videos on my website. They are all poems which come from books. All the videos now have a caption that runs with them, telling the viewer which book the poem comes from. So anyone - children, parents, teachers or whoever - can, if they want to, make that link between the spoken word and the written, helping children get, if you like, what I'd call  a three dimensional view of language…it can be pulled off the page by the speaker (me or the child) and it can be put back on the page by the viewer who finds the poem in a book.