This is no run-of-the-mill bookshop - it's a labour of love

3rd April 2009 at 01:00

In Aberfeldy, 11 reading groups for children aged three to 13 meet after school and on evenings and weekends, covering everything from Julia Donaldson to Agatha Christie. This is not the local school or library, but a bookshop.

The Watermill owners Jayne and Kevin Ramage are fervent believers in the value and importance of literature and literacy. A former primary headteacher, Mrs Ramage says she wants to give children a real understanding and joy of reading. "It's not sufficient for children to be decoding," she says. "They need to read with understanding. Although I do believe in phonics, I feel that schools are sometimes in danger of letting go of the joy of reading and storytelling."

The idea began three-and-a-half years ago, with four children. Numbers have mushroomed and there are now 48 children in 11 groups, with a maximum of six per group. There is no charge. The only stipulation is that every child must have a copy of the book they are studying - where they get it from is their business.

The youngest children are read two stories, while those from P2 up read a book together. Sessions are 50 minutes - an hour-and-a-half for the oldest children - and it can take a few weeks to read some books.

"With our groups, there is a lot of discussion round the text: fact retrieval, deductive questioning, using aural memory, the pictures and their understanding of semantics and grammar - and a lot of activity beyond decoding text, such as acting out, hot-seating, dictionary work, word games with the younger ones, and children will write to an author."

Mrs Ramage sees the bookshop's role as supplementing what the children learn at school. "I recognise that I have a luxury that teachers don't have in the classroom," she says. "I've got more time than they have in school - and I don't have to write lesson plans. It's worth every minute of the time I put into it. I'd love to see it happening in every town."

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