What happened to reading for pleasure?

31st January 2003 at 00:00
THERE is something missing in the current discussion over why standards in literacy appear to be stalling.

It is possible to train children to pass tests in reading and writing, but unless the child is a reader they will not have the skills to become fully literate. There will always be a glass ceiling limiting their development.

The simple fact is the reading child is a successful child. If you read for pleasure you absorb the rhythms and patterns of written language; you engage with the conventions of spelling; you synthesise the rules of grammar with the need to communicate.

In the light of this, I would argue a few simple points:

* reading and the school library must be at the heart of the curriculum with professional librarians co-ordinating book provision;

* money should be spent on this not another futile government initiative based on the current testing regime which would inevitably be built on sand;

* teachers should have their administrative burden reduced so they can read something other than useless documents and communicate their enthusiasm for the written word to their pupils;

* every class should have a book of the week with a child's review of it displayed;

* there should be a national tour of writers and celebrities raising the profile of reading;

* the Government should launch a national campaign in schools and the media to "switch off the TV for an hour a day". Parents and children would be encouraged to read without the distraction of electronic media.

I am convinced such a plan of action would substantially raise standards of literacy - and not one child would have to undergo a test to achieve that blessed objective!

Alan Gibbons Children's author and teacher 13 Chatsworth Avenue Orrell Park Liverpool

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