This morning I came across an article in The Telegraph (UK) about former children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo’s plea to reinstate daily story time in UK schools. I couldn’t agree with him more and during my school presentations I frequently talk about one of the reasons I fell in love with stories as a child being that my teachers read to the class – and I couldn’t wait for those daily instalments where there was no test afterwards, no comprehension questions or cloze passages – just the joy of sharing a wonderful story.
I still remember as if it was yesterday, my beloved teacher Sally Hogan reading February Dragon by Colin Thiele and being completely mesmerised. When I became a teacher, story time was sacrosanct. I loved nothing more than to read to my classes – silly voices and all. It was something I looked forward to and so did they. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve read Hating Alison Ashley or The Twits aloud but I never tired of the joy on the children’s faces when they really got to know the characters – as if they were friends, or when they grew to hate certain characters and wanted to see them get their come uppance. There was always a cheer when the horrible Twits got what they deserved and Mugglewump and his family were safe.
I read the comments attached to the article and there are a couple of people who dismiss the story, saying that story time does exist in all British schools. Having been in quite a few lately, I’d beg to differ. I’ve had numerous teachers come up to me after my talk and say they just wish they had time to be able to read to the children. But the pressures of the curriculum are too great – they just can’t fit it in…there’s too many tests and too much to get through. I talk about the notion of DEAR and its importance at home (DEAR stands for Drop Everything And Read – and is generally where children are allowed to choose their own books to read for about 15 -20 minutes), but not having been in the classroom now for a few years, I wonder if it too hasn’t been crowded out of the day. I hope not. Apart from that, while DEAR is important, so too is the idea of the teacher reading to the children and sharing stories.
Children need time to listen, to think, to dream and imagine. Boredom is the mother of creativity after all. If we want children to be creative then we have to give them time to create – not to be tested within an inch of their young lives and stressed out of their minds.
Anyway, I thought this article was worth sharing.
That chair below is the story chair at Seven Stories in Newcastle Upon Tyne. I’m looking forward to sitting in it next time I’m over.