When I gathered my little bundle of gifts together at the end of the term, whilst I am grateful for the sentiment behind them and the kindness this reflects, I am more bothered about the cards. With regards the cards, if it just says ‘Thanks for teaching me’ or ‘World’s best teacher evahhhh’, I’ll smile but I won’t keep it. Not being mean or anything, but in my life I’m going to be teaching a lot of kids, so I’ll not be keeping every one. Some do hit home though.
This time around, I received a card from a girl in my class who thanked me specifically for reading to her and for giving her book recommendations. She sketched herself reading alone, contentedly. She now chooses books.
It is hard to make kids choose books and truth told, most children I teach haven’t. In many ways I haven’t. I spent yesterday watching so many hours of Game of Thrones that my mind was saturated with the words ‘ELIA MARTELL!’. I faff about watching UFC videos and Vines of people falling out of car doors whilst twerking, and honking car horns to make their grandmothers drop cartons of milk.
To sit and get stuck into a book requires considerably more effort than watching this again. This video is just really funny. It is instant gratification.
The funniest books I know, and the funniest writers cannot compete with this second snippet mirth. Pretentious he may be, but I love the writing of Will Self and its macabre humour, such as in How the Dead Live. I loved reading Daniel Pennac’s ‘Diary of a Body’. Reading takes effort though, and sometimes, in a world where quick-fix jollies are bountiful, it is certainly easier to lose yourself in things like this.
So we need to carve out time for reading. With children, even if it is actually a negotiable, and your SLT dictates that the time ought to be filled with something else, reading time should be a non-negotiable.
It should be your subversion with the kids. You should slip into hushed whispers and put a lookout on the door to alert you if the Headteacher is coming, in order to gather the brood and plough through another few chapters.
They need to see the deeper excitement that can come from properly connecting with a story, and they can see that from you as a reader.
For us as teachers, sitting there morosely saying the words on the page with no engagement or interest is going to switch kids off. Teachers sometimes need to get a bit of verve into their voice – if your lessons and interactions with pupils feel like being cornered by a train-spotting crap uncle at a wedding you don’t want to attend… then there won’t be a love of reading coming out of the interaction.
We need to consecrate the time for reading and then bombard them with opportunities for more reading in the same way that a Youtube video immediately presents you with an abundance of other options, similar to what you have just done.
If you enjoyed watching the car horn scare the grandma, perhaps you would enjoy a girl in the supermarket doing screams.
And if you enjoyed ‘The Imaginary’ by AF Harrold, maybe you would enjoy ‘Fortunately the Milk’ by Neil Gaiman. If you enjoyed Michael Rosen’s poems, perhaps next you should explore Adisa’s ‘Lip-Hopping with the Fundi Fu’. If you liked Stig of the Dump maybe you want to try Skellig?
And for many of of our kids, just suggestions aren’t enough either. They can’t magic the book into reality. Get the book and put it in their hand, or else give them a library card and keep nudging them until they go.
I am not going to read a book today. I know this. I will play FIFA in my underwear for about 2 hours, I will go out to meet friends and then I will probably spend another lazy evening cradling my increasingly overweight cat like a grizzly newborn, whilst watching Game of Thrones. But when I’m ready, I’m not averse to picking up one of the legion of unread books in my collection.
Many of our pupils will be averse.