We all like a cosy spot to curl up with a book

2nd June 2006 at 01:00
If schools want to encourage reading, they may need to think about providing pupils with more home comforts.

Ten-year-olds in Aberdeen talked to classmates and adults about their reading habits and discovered that beds, beanbags and sofas were among their favourite cosy locations. Last year children visited the Scottish Parliament and quizzed MSPs. Even they prefer to read in bed or curled up on a sofa. It seems that no one wants to read at a desk at a time dictated by a teacher.

Some of the children's early findings were announced in a radio show presented by the P6 researchers from Aberdeen's Primary Enterprise Reading Bus Committee, representing the 10 primaries in the St Machar area.

Carrie Hutchison and classmates from St Peter's Primary asked pupils to name their favourite authors: J.K. Rowling led the field, then Roald Dahl, followed jointly by Lemony Snicket and Jacqueline Wilson.

Carrie says: "People said they liked reading in a warm, cosy place. They liked reading at home, somewhere they knew well, somewhere they felt comfortable and safe. They didn't like reading in a car or somewhere very cold.

"I like reading in bed; no one bothers you. Harry Potter is my favourite.

When I'm nearly at the end of the book and my mum says to go to sleep, I take my torch out and read under the covers."

Scott Thomson said being on the committee had encouraged his reading and confidence. "I never used to be good at reading but I'm better now. I read at school or in my bedroom. Oor Wullie is my favourite book."

Rowena Winram, of Woodside school, said: "Life wouldn't be worth living without reading."

The children developed their own questions, helped by Geoff Lewis, of Aberdeen University's Reading Bus team. To start his research conversations, Dr Lewis asked what it would be like if a witch cast a spell and people woke and couldn't read. What would happen? The children used the question in their work and David Russell, of St Machar Primary, summed up the findings. "Mainly everyone said they couldn't live without reading and that they wouldn't be able to do their job."

Radio presenter John McRuvie said his first book was 101 Dalmatians. "I can still remember the dogs walking through Essex on a cold winter's night and I remember feeling cold because Dodie Smith had written it so well."

Dr Lewis says his initial results from talking to P4-P7 pupils show reading is an intrinsic part of children's lives. P4 reading included teletext for football and music shows; P5s said text messaging, football and personal interests; P6s said encyclopaedias and The Guinness Book of Records; and P7s read Jacqueline Wilson and about animals and football.

"It's part of a lived life. It's about lottery tickets and teletext and finding out about hamsters," he says, "while schools tend to see reading as a separate activity."

He said children and adults liked to read in very comfortable places. "One little girl liked reading on a trampoline and another took over a neighbour's shed and turned that into a place to read.

"That's so different compared with how they read in school."

Jenny Watson, the Reading Bus co-ordinator and depute head at Hanover Street school, said the research and broadcast had given the pupils great confidence. "For 10-year-olds to be able to go and interview adults, that's been excellent. This has given them opportunities they would never have had."

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