English - I couldn't put it better

22nd February 2013 at 00:00

What it's all about

"Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave ... They show us how to live and die," declared Anne Lamott.

I like books. And my guess is that if you are reading this, so do you. But how can we infect the book-shy in our schools with a similar sense of bibliomania? asks Geoff Barton.

World Book Day, on 7 March, is an opportunity to get books into the hands of young people - to rekindle a spark of enthusiasm in those who have lost the habit of reading. But how is that best done at secondary level?

First, we need to have lots of books - real books - in school libraries. We need a bit of chaos and colour. We need adults in schools to talk spontaneously about what they are reading. And we need a community of readers to show how we celebrate and laugh and talk about what we read; how books permeate and add to our lives.

But there is also something we often do that we shouldn't: institute a regular slot for enforced silent reading with no discussion about the books chosen. As Ofsted's 2009 English report confirmed, if you are from a background where reading for pleasure is an alien act, being conscripted to read - especially an ill-considered text - is going to reinforce a sense that reading belongs to other people.

If we are going to show and share the joy of reading, it cannot be about isolated reading in authoritarian silence. It has to be about a community of readers. The World Book Day site (www.worldbookday.com) has plenty of ideas.

What else?

Promote the value of reading with Mark Cowan's lively poem. bit.lyATurnUpForTheBooks.

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