In brief

4th July 2003 at 01:00
Reading and Reader Development. By Judith Elkin, Briony Train and Debbie Denham. Facet Publishing pound;39.95.

In an age that tends to talk only of literacy, it's refreshing to be reminded of the joy of reading. This book - though an expensive investment for any school library or literacy co-ordinator - is a comprehensive survey of what we need to know about reading.

The opening chapter by Judith Elkin brims with enthusiasm for the sheer absorbing pleasure of it. At a time when people too glibly lament the days of reading for enjoyment, this chapter reminds us why so many of us like nothing more than - as an English professor of mine used to say - "curling up with an old friend".

It is crammed with quotations from a range of readers on their experiences of reading, some of which are almost mystical: "I can always tell when you're reading somewhere in the house. There's a special silence, a reading silence," says Francis Spufford.

Those of us who can't sit at breakfast without reading something, and who would find the thought of not having a novel on the go at all times unthinkable, will find much here that is familiar.

Other parts of the book explore reading in various contexts. Briony Train describes reader development trends in the library services, reading groups and technology. Other chapters focus on international perspectives, multicultural issues, ICT, special needs and reader development research.

This is an astonishingly comprehensive survey of where we are in our knowledge of reading and, refreshingly, written with a real sense of passion and enthusiasm for this most important human activity.

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