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So much for a government wanting to raise reading standards

Discussion in 'Personal' started by tafkam, Dec 21, 2010.

  1. tafkam

    tafkam Occasional commenter

    I've posted briefly about this on English, but thought I'd add here because I'm so appalled.
    The government that claims that it wants to rapidly raise standards of reading (and let's not get into the debate of whether that's appropriate) has decided to scrap every penny of the funding that previously went to Booktrust to distribute free books to babies, 5-year-olds and Y7 students!
    Having seen Year 7 children who otherwise would rarely pick up a book get engrossed in a book because it belonged to them, I can only begin to estimate the power of giving free books to children - let alone giving books to families who might never otherwise buy them for their children. How can the government be so short-sighted?
    (Perhaps because the rich families they care about can already afford such things?)
  2. RJR_38

    RJR_38 New commenter

    I didn;t know they gave away books in Y7 and if its true as the article says that the stuents are able to choose the book then I can see why it is more successful and perhaps this one should be kept.
    I work in a deprived area and I have to say that although the free books for babies and school starters is nice I'm really not sure it makes much difference. Those parents who want their children to read, access the books available to them (either through the surestart centres, schools or ones they buy). Often the books are already popular ones so those parents who read with their children already have the book so the money is wasted. Other parents who aren't fussed really couldn't care less and often just tut and either refuse to take them or say they will simply throw them away (I've seen it countless times).
    *Perhaps* this money could be more wisely spent on improving reading? Providing/continuing public library facilities? More authors etc coming into schools and nurseries? More 1-1 'tuition' right at the start to enthuse children and families? I don't know.... might be worth considering though?
  3. tafkam

    tafkam Occasional commenter

    It is the case that Y7 students get to choose from a shortlist - I think it was from about 14 books this year. And as I say, it amazes me how quickly some of those who don't often bother to take a book from the shelves will read one because they own it.
    As for Bookstart - the babies ones - I think there's nothing more important. While you're right that some parents don't make good use of them (and that's heartbreaking in itself) I also know from working in a library service, how many extra parents and families were encouraged to sign up for the library service because of that initial offer. And even those that never do, those could be the only books that a child has at home until starting school. What could be more important?
    I've no idea about the school-starters - entirely outside my expertise.
  4. NellyFUF

    NellyFUF Lead commenter

    It's all very lovely.
    But if you haven't got your child hooked on books already in the house, then you may be fighting a losing battle re reading.

  5. Andy_91

    Andy_91 New commenter

    The last thing any government really wants is mass literacy.
    The current economic arrangements of this country are that we need some highly skilled professionals, tradespeople to keep plant and buildings going, a few high value production wokers, and low-skilled service sector workers - most other knowledge workers can be outsourced to cheaper English speaking countries ie India, and most manufacturing will increasingly go to China, India and Brazil or not here.
    So the UK is in decline, and the thing it really doesn't need is a thoughtful, highly educated and discontented population.
    But the government will pretend it does. It will therefore increasingly remove the tools with which to educate young people while insisting that things must improve, and will divert the blame to teachers.
    As this process started with Sunny Jim Callaghan's Ruskin speech in 1975, I'm surprised you haven't noticed.
  6. tartetatin

    tartetatin New commenter

    My baby recently received a copy of 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' in her Bookstart bag. She was at least a year old at the time. EVERY young family I know has a copy of this on their bookcase as it's such a well known and popular title. We put our duplicate copy into the charity shop as for us, and many other families, it was a pointless offering. That sounds harsh and ungrateful and I really don't mean it to. It's just that if parents wish to encourage a love of books in their children, libraries are free to all. They are incredibly child friendly these days and even do free 'Rhymetime' sessions to get people through the door. It's just that some folks choose not to bother and I'm unconvinced that throwing a couple of free books their way will change that.
    I hate to sound so cynical, by the way [​IMG]
  7. tafkam

    tafkam Occasional commenter

    This I can well imagine is true, and is indeed one of the challenges of the schemes.
    My anecdotal evidence would suggest otherwise. I worked in the library service in largely affluent areas but in those harder-to-reach communities, where library-visiting was not part of the culture, and particularly where library experience was unfamiliar to the young mums and others struggling to do the right thing for their children, our experience showed that the Bookstart scheme - combined with an active approach from the library service - made a huge difference. I have worked with younger parents particularly who had no idea that libraries even had children's books available: they imagined them to be stuffy places filled with earnest texts.
    And actually, despite the popular views in the right-wing press, even the most apparently underskilled of parents usually do want the best for their child, and just often don't know how to provide it. Stepping stones like this can make a huge difference.
    Not to mention, of course, the fact that almost all evidence shows that the more experience children have of books (best still books of their own) before they even begin to be able to read, the more likely they are to become competent and confident readers upon maturing.
  8. lurk_much

    lurk_much Occasional commenter

    Getting rid of childrens TV would be a start. Without easy distraction people are going to have to interact with their children more, books are a way to get a little peace.
    No chance of that but other initiatives are doomed.
  9. Wonder how many kids are getting books for xmas? I suspect a lot less than are getting laptops/ computer games /tvs.
  10. RJR_38

    RJR_38 New commenter

    Sadly I think that far fewer will be getting books than should be. I remember being so excited about getting more books at Christmas (I was the worlds biggest bookworm!)
  11. tartetatin

    tartetatin New commenter

    YouTube - BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS!?!?!?!

    Not sure if the above link will work, but I couldn't resist. Naughty of me, I know: awful brat, awful parents.
    Thanks for an interesting thread though, tafkam [​IMG]
  12. I have to admit I'm not convinced that the free books help enthuse children about reading.
    I think what a teacher should do is show enthusiasm themselves if the parents can't or won't and ask children what they are reading, be familiar with books for their age group and make suggestions and provide good reading material in the classroom. So many English teachers stock their classrooms with dusty, battered books from the dregs of the English cupboard - realistically, they won't enthuse the students. I've raided charity shops and second hand bookshops for my classroom "library" and I've read them all, too. I also bring in books from home that I think some students may enjoy. If you actually say to a child "I know you enjoy crime novels, why not try this?" or "I know you liked the film of 'My Sister's Keeper', give the book a go!" they are generally so chuffed that you know something about them they are keen to give the book a go.
    One of my bottom set Year 11 students borrowed an abridged version of Wuthering Heights a few weeks ago and now she's got the basic story straight has taken the unabridged version home to try over Christmas. I've also given her the York notes to help her.
    There's so much brilliant reading material out there. Instead of providing children with one book, free of charge, and hoping they will read it, I think our expertise is so much more valuable from showing children the diversity and fun from reading and introducing a wide range of reading material to them and not being in any way snobby about their choices. I had a parent be a bit sniffy about the fact I had the Twilight books available in my classroom and she said that "all they want to read are vampire books." I honestly don't think it matters if that is what interests them at that age - I loved Sweet Valley High and Point Horror at a similar age; comparitively, Twilight is positively literary!
    I think that the problems are that firstly reading is not seen as "cool" - that's been around since I was at school and much has been done to address that but I think demonstrating to children that it is something adults do and enjoy is important. I show them my handbag which always has at least one book in it! Also, there are more important things to do than read - Facebook, computer games, to name but a few. It's important we encourage students to take that time to read, and they won't do it unless it's a book that interests them which is where, if parents won't, we should ideally be showing them books they will enjoy. I've taught so many students now who proclaim they "hate" reading but when you introduce them to the right book literally can't put it down. Kevin Brooks is an excellent choice for adolescent boys, I find - my y10s are fighting amongst themselves for my battered copies!
    If we want to raise reading standards, I firmly believe we have to be passionate about reading ourselves and in my experience too many people are just not!


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