Several times I have tried to tweet an idea that has been knocking around my head. The tweet goes out and gets a smattering of likes and occasionally resurfaces. Today was one of those days, and it made me wonder if the limitation was the actual idea, or my ability to express it with enough clarity and passion in 140 characters. Of course it might be that it is a rubbish idea, but in a trumpish-fit I am going to believe I have something worth saying and push forward.
Teachers and librarians know that reading is core to learning ( others know it too, but I am talking about our professional, evidence-based, daily experience). We know that helping children love books makes them active readers, and choice builds that love. We know that even wealthy parents cannot match the appetite of a voracious reader, and the most vulnerable children often have either little or no access to books outside the classroom, let alone books they want. All this is in the public domain and has been for some time.
Bookstart runs from this premise and has its roots in research by Maggie Moore and Barrie Wade which began in the early 1990s. Bookstart is great, but it feels like there needs to be a sustained and organised push amongst the older children. A push that is coordinated and promoted by the adults that fill their lives every day – their teachers and parents.
At a time when our roles are constantly reviewed, shaped and criticised by non-teaching politicians who hold the purse-strings and move to their own personal agendas, I am suggesting we need a campaign of activities lead and directed by us, professionals with the knowledge, passion and direct access to our young people. I am talking about a grassroots, coordinated approach with shared resources, ideas and activities.
This is not meant to be another layer of work, but easy hits such as setting school homework to join the library and use it regularly; national competitions around how many schools have visited their local libraries or how many pupils are active members of the library; Library love-ins, love bombing a library with readers; taking up library campaigns as meaningful writing activities and a way of engaging children positively with their local community.
If we could make all pupils aware of the facilities and involve more of them, making them comfortable to walk into a library and browse, we are doing everyone a favour. The pupils will always know where to turn when they want a source of knowledge and pleasure. The teachers will know they are broadening their children’s opportunities to read. Librarians increase their access to a hungry audience that then gives the lie to the idea that we do not need properly resourced free libraries, inside and outside of school.
It feels like a small step to set a homework of going to a library (and yes some parents won’t engage and support it), but it is a start. At a time when library doors are closing permanently, should we not be working together to keep them open and guide our children in? And as Aesop’s fable tells us, one stick alone can easily be broken, many sticks in a bundle are a tougher proposition and harder to break….
This link takes you to a possible homework sheet. It is free, available to adapt, edit and change as you want. It is merely offered as a starting point if you think it is useful.