Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Reading for pleasure by Abie Longstaff

My 11 year old son has just learned to read.

I don't mean he has just learned to make sense of all those squiggles that are letters, I mean he has just learned to READ - for enjoyment and for himself.

He has always loved books and being read to.

He likes to make up stories (mainly while jumping on the sofa or building enormous armies of assorted figures). He likes to talk about books and characters and plots and he has a whole shelf of books on cd he snuggles down every night listening to. But, until recently, he has never enjoyed the act of reading.

His dislike for reading began shortly after he started school. I don't blame the school (his primary school was lovely) but I do think something is missing in the system, in the way we start our children on the curriculum so young. My boy was just 4 when he started school, one of the youngest in his class, and all he wanted to do was play. My bouncy, rambunctious child who couldn't sit down even to eat dinner, was suddenly expected to be quiet and still on the carpet, to learn his letters and practise writing. He was in no way ready for it (and I pity the poor teacher who had to control him.)

In my son's 4 year old mind the act of reading soon became work, not pleasure.  Reading was associated with homework, with effort and with chores. This association continued through primary school. Luckily he kept his love of books, which I encouraged by buying him comics and puzzle books and story cds. He also loved me reading to him each night. He was very capable of reading and would do it when he had to, he just couldn't see any joy in the process.

Alongside this he loved playing on the computer, the xbox or the ipad - for him these things were fun, nothing to do with homework or school.

Then, on holiday he borrowed his auntie's ipad. On it was the Hunger Games and, bored one afternoon, he started to read. He read and read and read till the end. I don't really know what did it - it could have been the book itself  - but I think what finally kick-started his reading was that the ipad was not associated with school or work, it was associated with fun. Whatever it was, he read all three Hunger Games books in the space of a month (while I silently danced a little jig).
Shame he didn't pick a classic but it could have been much worse - 50 Shades of Grey was stored on my sister's ipad too.

Reading Hairy Maclary as a new born baby


Pippa Goodhart said...

Oh, I recognise that pattern of learning to read, and then learning to READ. So true. What should schools do differently, do you think?

Beth Kemp said...

Congratulations! One of the best things as my kids have got older (now 13 and 8) is watching them enjoy books by themselves and being able to recommend books to them and chat about them.

Hairy Maclary was a firm favourite in our house too - love that picture!

Moira Butterfield said...

Well done for finding ways to keep your son's interest in books going, Abby. The comics, puzzle books and story cds kept them in the frame for him as sources of enjoyment. When I was in primary school many a year ago we had a teacher who read to us regularly - classics such as Moonfleet, I remember. And I still remember decades later. She made stories come alive for me and showed me how enjoyable they could be, as opposed to 'learning material'. Storytelling on the curriculum? I don't suppose that'll ever happen.

Hospitable Scots Bachelor said...

Lucky boy! If he is a book lover he has friends for life.

Abie Longstaff said...

I love the idea of storytelling on the curriculum!
Personally, I feel we start the kids off on the path to education a little too early in the UK. While my son was learning his letters, his little friend Harry who lived in France was just playing. Harry didn't start learning to read until at least 6 years old. Yet, once he did start, within a few months he had caught up with my boy. So I'm not sure the two extra years of struggling through letters was all that valuable.

Julie Rowan-Zoch said...

Great post. I'd also like to hear what you believe could be done to avoid default.

Library Mice said...

I couldn't agree more about the schooling issue. I was brought up in France and learning to read takes a matter of months, because children are taught when they are the most receptive. In Scandinavia they go even further and don't teach reading until age 7. They have one of the (if not the) highest literacy rates in Europe.

Paeony Lewis said...

So have you bought your son an ipad, ready to be stuffed with books? It's wonderful that he's now reading for pleasure.