Read­ing mat­ters

When a good book grabs a child’s at­ten­tion, they lose them­selves in an­other world

EDP Norfolk - - EDUCATION - WORDS: Christo­pher Par­sons Christo­pher Par­sons is deputy head (aca­demic) at Nor­wich Lower School

To para­phrase, amongst oth­ers, J.K. Rowl­ing, James Pat­ter­son and Dr. Frank Ser­afini; “There’s no such thing as a child who doesn’t like to read, just a child who hasn’t found the right book yet.”

We all want our chil­dren to read, but we also need to make sure that we’re of­fer­ing them a suit­ably wide va­ri­ety of books. As adults, we know what we like to read be­cause we were lucky enough to stum­ble upon our pre­ferred style, or a pa­tient teacher or li­brar­ian en­cour­aged us to try lots of dif­fer­ent gen­res be­fore we found the one that we love.

‘Dif­fi­cult’ read­ers may sim­ply have never tried sci-fi, or fan­tasy, or fa­bles, or horror, or graphic nov­els. They may find the books that are put in front of them not funny enough, or not grue­some enough, or too clichéd.

The key is to talk to chil­dren about what they are read­ing: al­low­ing them to sim­ply say “it’s bor­ing” isn’t enough – en­cour­age them to of­fer con­struc­tive crit­i­cism that might give you a hint about what to try them with next. The good news is that chil­dren’s and young adult fic­tion is a boom­ing mar­ket – the qual­ity and range of chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture is outstandin­g and un­par­al­leled.

The key to help­ing a child find the right book is to lis­ten and to ask ques­tions. What was the best book they’ve ever read? What are their in­ter­ests? What makes them laugh? Do they like to be scared?

En­cour­age them to ask their friends what they have en­joyed read­ing – peer-topeer rec­om­men­da­tions are the most ef­fec­tive. But don’t over­look web­sites such as what­shouldirea­d­next.com and goodreads.com or even ama­zon. co.uk – all of which have strong book rec­om­men­da­tion tools. But of course ul­ti­mately the best tool to en­cour­age chil­dren to read is par­ents who read rou­tinely and who talk with their chil­dren about what they have read and what they have en­joyed or learned from books.

At Nor­wich School, we strive to con­stantly up­date our shelves with the new­est lit­er­ary dis­cov­er­ies in qual­ity chil­dren’s and young adult fic­tion. We get ex­cited and make a noise about events such as Chil­dren’s Book Awards, Roald Dahl Day, new pub­li­ca­tions and World Book Day, and of­fer the time and the space for quiet read­ing – teach­ing chil­dren that read­ing is si­mul­ta­ne­ously re­lax­ing and mind-ex­pand­ing, as well as an en­joy­able thing to do.

Where pos­si­ble, we try to make sure to cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties that truly bring books to life. Whether this is by vis­it­ing au­thors putting a face to a name printed on a cover or through drama ac­tiv­i­ties in li­brary ses­sions, we help chil­dren to try to con­nect with what they are read­ing in a way that is as im­mer­sive as pos­si­ble. Our aim is to give space for ‘book blath­er­ing’, a term coined by the bril­liant Pro­fes­sor Teresa Cremin.

Yes, we read books to learn. Yes, we read books for com­pre­hen­sion. But more than any­thing, we read books for the love of books. More

‘The key to help­ing a child find the right book is to lis­ten and to ask ques­tions’

‘We try to make sure to cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties that truly bring books to life’

than any­thing, our shared goal through­out the school is to in­stil a life­long love of read­ing and hunger to turn ev­ery page.

Keep­ing read­ing fresh and vi­brant is vi­tal to achieve this goal. We spend time cre­at­ing stim­u­lat­ing yet wel­com­ing read­ing en­vi­ron­ments. Dis­plays, art ac­tiv­i­ties, work­shops, book clubs, dress­ing up: th­ese all con­trib­ute to read­ing be­com­ing ut­terly ir­re­sistible and build­ing strong com­mu­ni­ties with a shared in­ter­est.

We want our read­ers bub­bling with ex­cite­ment ev­ery time they see a new box of books ar­rive and ready to pounce on new col­lec­tions. Of course, all of this re­lies on up-to-date knowl­edge on the parts of our li­brar­i­ans and we con­sider read­ing chil­dren’s and YA fic­tion a pro­fes­sional priv­i­lege rather than an obli­ga­tion!

ABOVE: Books can bring de­light to chil­dren

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