As World Book day beckons, teachers can be celebrating one of the most inspiring movements and shifts towards ‘taking back control’ (no Brexit pun intended) of their classrooms, with their reading for pleasure groups of teachers (which has rocketed from 20 to over 80 groups in the country in the last year), prompted and lead by the Open University with Teresa Cremins, leading the crusade to get the simple act of reading books in classrooms for the sheer joy of it as a daily ritual. It has been a pure triumph to see teachers (non apologetic ones!) picking up book after book to read, devour and enjoy with their children.
After years of feeling trodden on by league tables of, who knew their modal verbs from their adverbial clauses, (I know I sound bitter, but bare with me) as over zealots Ofsted inspectors trampled through our schools with outdated clipboards, (bare with me) and expensive agendas; looking data progress as if it were the holy grail of teaching, and the only mark of a school worth having, (nearly done) completely ruined the value of a genuine culture of looking at what the children needed as a starting point for education. I would say the complexity of each child in every classroom deserves more than this sort of judgement and understanding. Those banners of ‘This is an outstanding school’ may now read, ‘This is a Reading for pleasure school’, just a thought?
Teachers sodden with sweat trying to please everyone who wasn’t a teacher but told them how to teach, had every last drop of data squeezed out of them. Some left in their droves, some felt helpless in their droves, but I’m pleased to say those who stayed have emerged as butterflies singing and dancing, with pages of songs to sing, books to shout about and authors to rhapsodise.
Of course, there’s still far to go, but feeling we’re back on a path we can live with; (though still fighting for funding, all eyes on 4th March for that debate) a journey filled with books and more joy to create and breathe again, inhaling literature with fresh eager nostrils, exhaling an exuberant vibe, which you only have to look at the #rfp hashtag to get a sniff of what I’m talking about from teachers. We read, the children read, it’s habit forming, surely as good as rocket science, in that it is life changing to read regularly, building neuronal building blocks for readers of the future! We know the impact is starting to show, you only have to look into the twinkling eyes of a child whose been given permission to talk about the latest book they’re reading in class!
“Literature offers the thrill of minds of great clarity wrestling with the endless problems and delights of being human. To engage with them is to engage with oneself, and the lasting rewards are not confined to specific career paths.
Jonathan Stroud, author of the Lockwood & Co series.
Schools can now listen to a beautiful sound of pages of books being turned during times like DEAR (drop everything and read); they can hear children talking about books in corridors, at lunchtimes, and teachers are doing the same in staffrooms. It’s been an inspiring time where authors are welcomed into schools with fresh excitement (that was only seen pre Ofsted days imo). Enthusiasm for reading is being grown on trees, and our children are being nurtured, their subconscious minds trained with the best habit-forming practice ever; making reading a part of their lives, a lifestyle, a automatic response, a choice, and of course a pleasure.
Start small then go big, classrooms are rocking out (#readingrocks) and more, train your brain to build in time and space for reading. And now, free following hot on the heel of this, another idea worth popping into the curriculum in its own worthy place.
With free writing filtering through to expand our children’s experiences of self in the classroom; creativity is back in the limelight, yeah! Amazingly teachers now armed with courage instead of data can give free writing times, in classes for children to explore and discover themselves. Through the simple, yet cognitively crucial, act of picking up a pen and writing on a piece of paper; that connection to self, creativity celebrates a new wave of neuroplasticity and growth to all who venture forward, pens and pencils poised, flowing subconscious ramblings one needs for the soul to sing. Making space for creativity is another fundamental part of learning about self and the world; we have to lead by creating this space and time in every classroom, and giving it to every child. So our classrooms are humming their own tunes; the air is fresh with hearts held higher, joyful musings fresh from the moment of their creation.
Reading for pleasure and writing freely, and class discussions will lead us to more critical thinkers; resilient, savvy explorers, children with rich and varied perspectives, opened eyes and voices that shout loudly to show they value their own imagination for the world and who they are in it because they will be packed out with knowledge from books, stories and their own conscious thoughts for who they are and what they can bring to the future.
In the words of first youth climate striker, Sweden’s Greta Thunberg… “We will not accept a life in fear and devastation. We have the right to live our dreams and hopes.”
Reading for pleasure is the beginning of many adventures; it all starts with the habit of readers, promoting a good book, or giving children the chance to explore books without a modal verb question in sight, and you are giving someone a whole new world and a glimpse of perspective they would have never had without that time, without that book. Voices have risen to promote a love of books for our readers, we can now build our children’s future with a lifestyle which will have them reading and writing their own stories. Now what could be better than that?
#worldbookday #rfp #readingforpleasure #readingrocks #freewriting
Image from Pongy Stinkbelly finds a friend book.