Thursday, 19 November 2015

Want to encourage more children to read? How about encouraging, not stifling, their creativity! A ReaditDaddy Editorial

Next year, the BBC is embarking on a year-long campaign to encourage more people to read - which you can read a bit more about here:

It goes without saying that the campaign has the best of intentions, aiming to inspire people (and more importantly children) to pick up a book and dive inside. Reading through some of the planned activities I rode a rollercoaster of being excited about or nonplussed by some of the things mentioned as coming up in 2016.

Firstly, fantastic to see that this will tie neatly in with the celebrations of Roald Dahl's centenary year with dramatised adaptations of Dahl's "Boy" and "Going Solo" books (which sounds fantastic). So up at the top of the roller coaster shouting hooray for that one.

But is Dahl the limit of what we can expect for kids (not that I have anything against Dahl per se - I guess it could have been far worse, a year long celebration of David Walliams' books for example!)

Where are all the fantastic contemporary authors and artists who should also be championed? Can we hope that the planned CBBC "Awesome Authors" programmes at least include a good brace of our favourite book folk? Fingers crossed.

Now to the main grist of this particular editorial and the reason for the fantastic and happy image in the header, and something that's been bugging me for a heck of a long time.

Creativity needs to be at the heart of any campaign encouraging folk to wrap themselves up in a good book. I feel that creative and artistic kids probably already feel like second class citizens in schools under the pressure to become literate and numerate but surely no great strides can be made in improving child literacy if only done so for academic achievement or as a means of meeting a government guideline on reading age and ability? We're back to that old argument about 'turning kids off books' for life if they're only being served a diet of dry old classics purely used as a measuring tool rather than something that will enhance and enrich their lives.

Charlotte is lucky that she gets a good balance of both logical and numerate thinking & super craft skills from her mum and daydreamy artistic creative stuff from me (I'm practically number blind but am a rabid bookivore so the balance is probably a bit skewed at times). Watching Charlotte draw is one of life's genuine pleasures and listening to her when her imagination has been fired up by a book, character, comic or story is again a genuine pleasure and something that I know makes a huge contribution to her appreciation of books and reading.

We can also directly see the impact her imagination has on her school work (particularly literacy / reading). When recently watching and listening to her working through an exercise in producing a set of sentences using verbs, she came up with ideas that weren't just simplistic and functional, weren't just box ticking but showed she had a genuine understanding of how to 'storify' her work and how to make language work for her.

It also comes across in the way she speaks, and the way she is curious about unfamiliar words and grammatical nuances of English that have come through soaking up a huge diverse range of very imaginative and stimulating books.

I'll be watching how the BBC's campaign unfolds very closely (and reporting on it here as much as possible). If one thing comes out of the year, I'd love it to be recognition of the fact that we will never achieve the goal of getting more children into reading if we push and force rather than encourage and inspire.