Crowded curriculum squeezes story time

RICHARD FANTHOME is passionate about the benefits of reading aloud. "I cannot remember a single child who did not enjoy hearing a good story," he said.

But the Year 4 teacher at Leverton junior school in Waltham Abbey, Essex, reads aloud a lot less than when he started 10 years ago.

The TES survey found 31 per cent of Y4 teachers had less time for reading aloud than five years ago, although 22 per cent now managed to read more often.

Mr Fanthome said: "There's so much stuff to be done that the luxury of sitting with children and saying 'Let's find out what so and so is doing', gets squeezed."

His favourite read is Zilla Sasparilla and the Mud Baby by Judith Gorog, but the one which gets the biggest reaction is Michael Rosen's Sad Book, about the death of the author's son. Mr Fanthome's class copy is covered in notes which children can fill in as a way of sharing their feelings.

"When I became a teacher I encountered children who had never read for pleasure. They were not interested," he said. "How can you expect a child to write stories, with characters, conflicts and settings?

"I think teachers having time to read to children could be a big factor in improving literacy, but unless someone in power actually says that, it won't happen."

Lisa White, a Year 4 teacher at Bowburn junior school in Durham, said reading in her class had increased since she trained three years ago.

"Reading is not something the children see at home, so it's vital it happens at school," she said, and pupils looked forward to reading-aloud time.

"Reading gives the children a real foundation to build their writing on, so it's really important for their development. Without entering into imaginary worlds and stories - even non fiction - they have no experience to draw upon as writers."

Her favourite book is Wilfred Gordon Macdonald Partridge by Mem Fox, but she found that Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian did not go down well.

"Children can't seem to relate to things which happen in the past," she said. "They like the contemporary stories, science fiction and anything which really stretches the imagination."

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