Once upon a time there were stories

20th June 2003 at 01:00
I have noticed a distinct decline in the number of teachers who make time to read whole novels to their class.

Children dissect and analyse text but rarely get the pleasure of sitting and listening to a story from beginning to end after they are infants. This is a tragedy.

I remember in junior school being enthralled when the teacher read books from the Famous Five series to The Wind in the Willows. Story time was always the best part of the day.

The same was true when I became a teacher myself. Children's eyes would shine as you described the inside of Mr Wonka's chocolate room, or later when I read my Year 6 class a book by a new author I'd found, called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Children were begging their parents to buy it for them and parents came in thanking me for "turning our so and so into a reader".

A friend of mine who is a literacy consultant says it is recommended that older juniors should hear one novel a year. A novel a year!! So in their time at primary school they may hear three or four books.

When I was in the first year of junior school I often read a novel a week to myself, nearly always inspired by what the teacher was reading. I can trace my love of literature back to the third junior year and the wonderful way Mrs Edmonson read stories at the end of the day. Even now, I tune into Book at Bedtime because there is nothing like listening to a story well read.

Let's fight to bring back reading stories. Perhaps if children were given the opportunity to hear how well written English sounds when read aloud, their writing would improve and we would reach that elusive writing target as they emulated good writing rather than analysed it. In literacy today, children may comprehend Oliver Twist but fail to enjoy the magic of Dickens.

Nancy C Walbank

2 Paddington AvenueSt Michaels on Wyre Preston Lancashire

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