Thursday, September 10, 2015

Back to School, Back to School Books (GAHHHHH!) - A ReadItDaddy Editorial

Charlotte has now started back at school, and inevitably this means she'll start reading "school" books again. We never really have much to stress about when it comes to her reading but sometimes it feels like she's unnecessarily being made to follow a fairly rigid 'track' through school bookwork rather than being allowed to develop her own skills and tastes.

I should emphasise two things though:

1) School is fantastic and we've never, ever had cause to complain about the way they teach literacy and improve reading skills

2) She reads a lot of books. A LOT of books - all the stuff we review here and a whole lot more besides, so should I even worry about school book work at all?

The crux of this editorial is something that cropped up on Twitter (usually Twitter is the inspiration for a lot of these ramblings but this was definitely an eye-catching tweet and a point well made by @joannechocolat).

This This This This This This THISSSSS! God, if only I could cram this up the nose of some of the mums at C’s school twitter.com/Joannechocolat…

Joanne Harris  @Joannechocolat

6. Teaching a child to love reading matters more than boasting to your friends about his reading age. #TenReasonsToLetKidsReadWhatTheyLike

It struck me that the real problem I have with the school bookwork has nothing to do with the material or the level it's aimed at, it's the inference that Charlotte's reading level is purely determined by books she HAS to read rather than books she wants to read.

We have a lot of mums at Charlotte's school who insist that their little darling(s) read at such a highly advanced level for their age that they could happily work through the works of Shakespeare in an evening, or could polish off War and Peace for giggles at the weekend. Proud parenting is fine but it's the veiled inference that one child is somehow 'better' than another purely because they're reading books with a bigger word count, or have moved on swiftly from children's books and are working their way through dusty old classics that you really wouldn't wish on anyone.

Competitive parents aside, and getting back to Joanne's tweet, you can spot the kids who have a genuine love of reading and actually LOVE the books they've brought to school off their own backs to read in the cloakroom or at break times. There's a certain shiny-eyed enthusiasm that is instantly identifiable in kids who actually consider reading in their free time to be a pleasure, not something foisted on them just to bump up their academic reputation amongst their peers and their teachers.

When we receive books for review, sometimes the reaction from Charlotte is utterly priceless and I truly wish I could somehow take a snapshot of that precise moment in time and somehow turn it into a meaningful sentence or two in our reviews (particularly when it comes to "Book of the Week" winners which I'm always worried we don't trumpet loudly enough about - If they've made Book of the Week they're pretty much as close to perfection as you're going to get in a children's book).

I'm always well aware that it could easily be a different story, that the book blog could've dwindled away to nothing purely because Charlotte had only a passing interest in books and reading, or considered reading to be the very opposite of 'leisure time'. If that had happened, I wouldn't be here now typing this and I'm so glad she saw the worth of reading for pleasure early on, because reading purely for bragging rights just seems utterly worthless to me.

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