As a Head of English I’ve often heard such sentiments from exasperated parents. ‘Oh Johnny doesn’t read. He’s never read much.’
The chances are this may not be true. I would argue that Johnny has read a great deal. Ever since he was able to understand words on a page he’s been reading. Everyday. What we may mean when we say he doesn’t read is actually, he doesn’t read – and finish – a novel very often. But Johnny does read. Words flash past Johnny’s eyes more frequently than you might think. Like most children he reads: magazines, game rules, Lego instructions, TV programme details; Wii instructions, team lists, timetables, birthday cards, Webpages, emails, text messages, school books, exam questions and letters from Father Christmas. You get the picture.
If we interpret the definition of ‘reading’ as ‘deriving meaning’ then we might add to the above list the reading of body language and facial expressions, which Johnny’s been doing since he was born. Let’s face it, our children always know how to read our faces, don’t they?
So let us all celebrate the fact that we all read every day. Yes, I’d like the children to chomp through a novel every week; but I am happier to know that they are reading from a range of different genres, in a range of different settings, and finding meaning wherever it may lie.
How they respond to what they read – that’s another blog.
Head of English