Wednesday, June 08, 2011

New Children's Laureate talks nonsense on reading

Julia Donaldson has been appointed the new Children's Laureate and celebrated her achievement with a spectacularly silly statement.

As the Indpendent tells it:
the most successful recent children's books, marked her appointment as Children's Laureate yesterday with a call to arms against "pushy parents", describing them as "a pain" who take the enjoyment out of reading.

"I don't believe you should push your children too hard. They are so sensitive," the author said. "If they are not ready to read it can be detrimental and it is more likely they will be worse off. I really find pushy parents a pain. I have met a lot in my time and while it is important to read, it should be enjoyable. It should be done for pleasure."
My mother taught me to read before I went to school and it was only ever teachers who threatened the pleasure I got from it.

I suspect it is not so much that Donaldson disapproves of parents as that she has the literary left's exagerrated respect for the public sector. Call it Philip Pullman Syndrome.

Fortunately, the same Indpendent article provides some robust good sense from Julia Dou√ętil of the University of London's Institute of Education:
"It is never too early to start enchanting children with books. It is hard to believe Julia Donaldson would discourage parents from reading with their children from the earliest possible age. The trouble is, we can become so paranoid about them being able to read, that we sometimes forget they have to want to in the first place.

We regularly find children who, at age five, have given up on themselves as readers, usually because they have not been exposed to books. My advice to parents is to read to your child from as early as possible and don't stop when they have learnt to read for themselves."


susan said...

I am really pleased that you are tackling this subject but do feel that you might have over reacted to her comment a little? What she was talking about was the parent who makes reading and books a tense affair, associated with being pushed and in these competitive hot housing days this can start v young. It is not just teachers who can make a child feel bad about their abilities. I am sure she believes like you do that it is never too early to start but to make it fun and go at a suitable pace for the child.

Anonymous said...

I agree. As a teacher and literacy subject leader in a primary school I have seen parents forcing their children to read huge amounts every night to try to get through the school reading scheme. They constantly compare their little ones on the playground and try to beat each other onto 'the next stage'. It does happen.
As Julia Donaldson says this has a detrimental effect on a child's motivation to read. They can end up sounding like robots without good comprehension and having no love for what they are reading.
As an author of so many books aimed precisely at our early readers - why on earth would she be suddenly telling us not to read them 'to' and 'with' our children?! Of course she's not saying that. If my 6 year old has had enough of her school reading book after three pages we cuddle up on her bed and I read her one of her favourites instead - with her joining in with the bits she knows. And one day very soon -when she's ready - I know she'll be able to read it herself.