Empathy, imagination and children’s stories

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Featured on the Scholastic Blog

In lots of schools (and here is a cause to rejoice!) there is a renewed energy around the power of reading, and the benefits that can come about from children developing a real ‘love of reading’. The idea that books are a good thing for children is hardly revolutionary, but what is certainly novel to me at least (no pun intended) is that so many teachers are now talking about children’s storybooks in their staffrooms. Beyond the joy of reading for its own sake though, reading can be a vehicle for so much more. Reading can help teach children to empathise, to question things, and to imagine a different society.

It takes effort though. When we talk of fostering a ‘love of reading’, we speak of feeding a desire to read that goes beyond the watchful disciplinary eye and the raised eyebrows of the teacher in the classroom. Here, we are talking about children willingly choosing to switch off their PS4, and instead grabbing their well-thumbed book to find out what happens in the final pages of How to Train Your Dragon. We are talking about the sneaky torchlight under the bedcovers, as they desperately race through The Silver Sword. This is about kids keen for Monday to arrive, so they can tell their friends how Beowulf defeats Grendel.

As teachers, we may find ourselves looking to books to help teach about social issues, and to use fiction to help demystify what seems like an increasingly confusing and confused world. Whilst fiction can shock us, enthral us, thrill us and upset us, there remains that safe blanket of distance, however thin, that simultaneously insulates us from the grittiness of reality, whilst allowing us to tiptoe into more perplexing, difficult and challenging topics.

Read on here.

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