Tuesday 6 November 2018

More thoughts on reading for pleasure

Reading for Pleasure for all cannot be achieved by one agency alone: not schools alone, not libraries alone, not voluntary organisations alone. It has to be a many-headed Policy from all these.

Every voluntary initiative about reading for Pleasure is welcome. But it’s not enough to reach all. It needs to be a cultural in-school and out-of-school Policy.































Btw I’ve sat face to face on different occasions with four Education ministers: Balls, Knights, Coaker, Gibb plus Culture Minister Hodge trying to convince them that Reading for Pleasure needs to be ‘Policy’ and I’ve totally failed to convince them.

The problem is that ‘reading books for Pleasure in your spare time’ was never made part of ‘education’ so no one makes it ‘policy’. But every research on it shows that education is enabled by RfP in spare time! It needs to be policy so ALL can benefit.

I notice on the comments thread after my article about reading for pleasure in the Guardian how soon it attracts the ‘blame parents’ lobby. Do they think the state shouldn’t do education? The RfP argument is that RfP should be part of education! Not a voluntary annexe to it.









It’s not a matter of implementing one thing. It’s about a cultural policy

Teacher librarians, librarians, children's librarians, school librarians, the school library service, the YLG, the SLA, librarians, librarians, librarians. This should be the backbone of in-school and out-of-school education.

What we read and how we read as children is not trivial or 'childish'. It's these books that contribute to our patterns of thinking, dreaming, hoping, fearing, yearning for...and of course our patterns of reading and understanding the printed word for the rest of our lives.

Meaning is also conveyed through ‘prosody’ - the rhythms, sound-patterns, repetitions, variationsbin the musicality of a Text. Dickens uses this a lot when distinguishing between the discursive ironic narration and the poetic descriptive one.

Parents who share picture hundreds of picture books with their under-5s enable their children to make cognitive leaps through trying to interpret the logic and meanings suggested by the unstated differences between the pictures and the text.

Reading for Pleasure works because books work. Books work because they invite interpretation = the play of speculation, reflection, prediction, affirmation, surprise, deduction, analysis, wonder, empathy, fear, hope, horror, sensuality, conceptual thinking, memory...and more.

The big irony of recent educational change is that parents who, at home, can use 'progressive' non-cramming educational methods of: cooperation, invention, discussion, children doing planning, investigation,discovery, interpretation bestow huge advantages on their children!

It’s not simply a matter of ‘teaching children to read and write’. There is the question of who owns literacy. Who leaves school thinking that they own literacy, that writing is something that they own and control and use in many different ways according to their needs? How can we help children own literacy? Publishing and performing, whole school texts, suspending the curriculum, open interpretation using questions like 'what in this text reminds you of something that has happened to you or that you have read or heard?' 'what questions would you like to ask anyone in the book? Or the author?'

The best help you can give for writing (schools or wherever): imitation, invention, investigation, interpretation and audience. Ie saying ‘we can write like that, make stuff up, wonder why, discuss and share.’

The danger [irony alert!] of silent reading is that it doesn't provide instant data, it provokes thought and interpretation and when it provokes talk, this quickly leads to higher order thinking, independent of direct instruction.

It needs to be 'policy' because we want it to be 'reading for pleasure FOR ALL. Like health used to be done by charities but it meant not everyone got it. Reading for pleasure should simply be part of education ie what we all do.

My point in the article about Reading for Pleasure is one of policy. Given that it's now been shown that RfP has huge benefits for those in education, I'm asking why not bring people together (another point of the article) to work out how to make RfP part of education?

But when I say 'education' - I don't only mean 'schools' - I mean in-school and - just as importantly out-of-school. This needs to bring together the kind of thinking that goes on inside the voluntary bodies with those in education.

The comments thread following my article in today's Guardian about 'Reading for Pleasure' is full of parent-blaming stuff, which in effect says, 'Well, there's nothing you can do and there's no point in doing it.' Why do people do that?

Reading works to enable us to think because when we read we make comparisons between life and the book, between the book and other books, and between things in the book. These acts of comparison are at the least a first step towards making generalised and/or abstract thoughts.

Reading for Pleasure works because books work. Books work because they invite interpretation = the play of speculation, reflection, prediction, affirmation, surprise, deduction, analysis, wonder, empathy, fear, hope, horror, sensuality, conceptual thinking, memory...and more.

Reading for Pleasure is 360 degrees. Every part of in-school and out-of-school policy has to contribute and co-operate.

Yes, and the interesting thing about fiction, drama and poetry is that more often than not, they involve some kind of marriage between ideas and feelings attached to beings ('characters) that we come to care about.

Browsing and choosing are vital and necessary starters for reading for pleasure. Just handing children books and telling them to read for pleasure is not reading for pleasure. 

Browsing and choosing teaches us about how reading can be part of our lives, how it can matter. Browsing and choosing involves special kinds of reading: scanning, selecting, picking up clues and cues. We only find out if it works when we go with our choices and start to read the rest. If it 'fails' we try other ways. 

Trial and error without fear of failure - it's a crucial part of reading and education as a whole.

Reading is one of the easiest ways in which we get hold of the strategies and procedures of continuous prose (CP). This is not just a matter of 'vocabulary'. We really need to get away from just talking about vocabulary because it makes us focus on books as if they are just self-storage places full of words in store. 

CP is very different from speech, dialogue and inner speech. CP carries the language of law, administration, humanities and science.

There is a model of reading which suggests that when we read, we take eggs out of egg-boxes - that we lift chunks of text - words etc which supposedly just  'mean x' or 'y'. (This is the 'retrieval' model.) No, what we do is yes, take eggs out of egg-boxes but we can't eat them until we cook them - boil them, poach them, make scrambled eggs. We make the meaning. 

When we read, we relate our interpretation of the text with our experience of life and experience of the texts we know. This 'comparison-making' is the central component of 'interpretation'. We do this with dialogue, but with reading it is slower and more prolonged. This is how we educate ourselves to get hold of this way of thinking.