Guest post: Anne Fine OBE

The UK’s recent rise in the PIRLS tables has been accompanied both by praise for schools’ success in boosting reading levels, and by calls to remember that the pleasure of reading is just as important as the mechanics.

The coalition behind the ROGO Index, launched today, has highlighted research linking enjoyment of reading to better educational outcomes and improved life chances, while the index itself suggests young people’s enjoyment and frequency of reading are lagging behind their cognitive reading skills.

In this context, second Children’s Laureate Anne Fine OBE – a longstanding advocate of the wide-ranging benefits of reading – shares advice to help schools encourage learners of all abilities to read more, and to get more from their reading…

Even in today’s digital, multimedia age, good books remain essential in helping young people develop – not only their literacy, but their ability to understand themselves, those around them and the wider world.

This is true for learners of all abilities, including the more able. The challenge for teachers is in helping them access the right books – books that will speak to their interests, engage their curiosity, open up new ideas and possibilities.

So even as schools come under growing pressure to invest in computer labs and tablets, they should renew efforts to stock up their bookshelves, and equip teachers to support all learners in becoming wide and avid readers.

Raise the bar

In my visits to schools around the country I’ve encountered huge disparities in the number of books read by children – including the more able – on a weekly or termly basis. This is often about expectations; there should be an expectation that everyone is reading, regardless of whether this is reflected at home.

While more able learners may not appear to need much support with their reading, the challenge is in helping them access the right books. When a child enjoys a book, teachers should think laterally to identify others they’re likely to enjoy – by the same or a similar author, covering a related subject matter, with a similar tone or perspective.

There are also authors who are well-known for raising the sorts of topics that are fascinating to an intelligent child – such as Geraldine McCaughrean, Hilary McKay or Philip Pullman – and teachers should be able to point their more able learners towards these writers.

Reading for life

Young people are not kept wrapped in china on a shelf, as we know. They worry about things –  especially bright children, in my experience. Books remind them that they are not alone. Their worries are not just theirs; they’re shared by many others, and people approach them in different ways.

No story starts with a happy family, followed by 150 pages in which nothing bad happens; that’s just not interesting. Even if it’s a comedy, there’s always something going wrong. But most children’s books do offer some light, somewhere to go, some way to think about things in a more positive way – and that’s very important in helping children develop ways to cope when they feel overwhelmed.

Children who read a lot have a deeper understanding not just of other people’s behaviour and how they think, but of their own. Self-knowledge is the most valuable of the virtues. We all see people who make the same mistakes over and over again – and it’s because they don’t actually know themselves.

But aside from the many benefits, what a waste of time not reading, when there’s so much absorbing pleasure in it!

Anne FineJoin Anne Fine at English for the More Able

Anne Fine will deliver the opening keynote at NACE’s English for the More Able conference in York on 15 March 2018. Titled “Pitching it right, taking it deeper”, her session will explore the benefits of reading for both academic progression and personal development. She’ll also share some practical tips and strategies to encourage all children, particularly the more able, to read more and get more from their reading.

View the full conference programme.

Book your place.
Friday, December 15, 2017