We were delighted to support our partner, CPD Provider, Ilsham English Hub in their recent event for schools with celebrated author, Michael Rosen who led a session on Reading for Pleasure on Wednesday 28 April 2021.
Author of over 200 books, Michael was recently awarded the 2021 J.M. Barrie Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his work in championing the arts for children and his many achievements as a performer and author.
"Reading for pleasure," he noted, "is a cosy title. But it does an important job." Indeed, research shows that reading helps children to attain, achieve and get the most out of school, with many children and young people staying on longer in education. Which must be a good thing.
Starting with the empirical evidence, Michael cited a study by the National Literacy Trust that he presented to Schools Minister, Nick Gibb on "Family Scholarly Culture and educational success" (MDR Evans et al, University of Nevada). Essentially, exposure to books and high culture provides important academic advantages for children - wherever they are in the world and no matter their parents.
But, Michael pondered, how can doing something cosy and ordinary like sharing books and "book blether" (talking about books in case you didn't know!) and the magic of books transform into creating attainment, success and access to schooling?
This is where Michael turned master of this reading for pleasure masterclass with his checklist below that is worth resuming in its entirety for all our book-loving teachers who aspire to inspire their pupils and as a reminder of the value of reading:
1. Empathy - get into the shoes of the characters in the books. By going outside of ourselves and comparing to someone else can lead to abstract thought. It helps children cope with a range of emotions: fear, anger, danger, sadness, pity etc.
2. Standard English - immersion in books is like learning languages. The reader is getting used to specialised ways in which English is laid out differently to how we speak it.
3. Structure of Story as narratives - stories are full of patterns and sequences/archetypes, e.g. Cinderella, the classic rags to riches story.
4. Wisdom - we get it from books and pass on these values and wisdom.
5. Figurative language - metaphor, similar, personification and images in literature. These can be quite complex for some children. But told through a story they can build on their understanding.
6. Symbolic Representation - does the story represent something more than it is?
7. Possibility of Change - someone can learn something from what's going on. This is a powerful message for children.
Even though the audience of over 260 were remote, watching Michael on screen as he read from "Where the Wild Things Are" brought all the magic of reading, picture books, language, atmosphere and stories alive. And had the audience been together in an auditorium I have no doubt you would have heard a pin drop. Utterly rapt!
With an almost effortless energy and enthusiasm, Michael oozed ideas to encourage children to read and engage actively in reading. Interviewing each other to discover the motive of stories - how did Hansel and Gretel feel? Writing prequels and sequels (with references to Daphne du Maurier's enduring classic, "Rebecca").
Find the Secret Strings (a beautifully catchy turn of phrase). The links inside stories. Turn poem detectives. Group activities. Yes! One teacher quoted in the chat how her pupils in her Year 1 class have been reading "The Little Red Hen" this week and have made links between "The Three Little Pigs" and "The Gingerbread Man," which "has instilled confidence, knowledge and understanding, particularly with my youngest children." Wonderful!
For our Early Year readers when stories are so essential in their development of language. Read out loud, sing and recite poetry. Help children to find the joy of language. Because "What they can say can be written." One teacher cited her class who love reading the story 'Chocolate Cake' and find it "hysterical." Another teacher added that her class changed the title to "Choc Lick Cake!" playing with the language. Showing how the best stories are often based on an element of truth, Michael shared how he used to pinch food from the larder - especially caramel wafers!
So how can a book-friendly school promote books for their children and families? Not surprisingly Michael had a feast of ideas:
We thank Michael for his joie de vivre for language and life in this "Reading for Pleasure" session delivered with fun and mischievousness and also thank Ilsham English Hub for organising such an enjoyable and engaging event.
The good news is that Ilsham will be hosting a further Michael Rosen session on Poetry in the Classroom on Wednesday 23 June 2021.
In the meantime, you can visit Michael's YouTube channel that has had more than 100 million views!
Report by Jude Owens
If you would like to be added to our mailing list to receive our newsletters, please email SWIFT Project Co-Ordinator, Jude Owens.