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A Literate Generation?

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In an age of video game entertainment, how can we encourage our children to read?

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      21.08.2012 18:21
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      Fortunately for me Victoria Principle appear on my TV screen once a week

      Since computer games have become so popular do you think children are reading less for pleasure? There is a failure in our educators and schooling because children are reading less for pleasure, although there have always been distractions regardless of what era your youth resided in. For me, it was my unquenchable admiration for Victoria Principle who played 'Pamela Ewing in Dallas' - I could neither concentrate on my reading for pleasure or my studies knowing she was on TV, I had to turn her on. Luckily she didn't grace any other British / US shows while I was hormonally charged so overall I had an unmarred reading for pleasure education. When it came to a stringent research I would meander down to the local library and like a sponge I'd absorb the classics, business and economic books; I also had the luxury of picking out three books to take homewards - I'd usually opt for Modernism, and Art History as easy reading. Nowadays, libraries have been torn down as a viable source of education and it will stunt education for generation (s) to come. Education comes from browsing in libraries, chance findings, physically available at arms length, all proud and upright, all shapes and sizes, with different strengths of wooden mustiness marinated into the covers - even that flicked my intrigue, you don't get that from an e-reader device. Just like libraries being stripped unceremoniously from society the same goes with school playing fields, parks, youth clubs, youth groups, everywhere you turn children's / youths outlets are stripped from existence. Their sense of adventure, social interaction has been restrained too such an extent, their only means of expression comes in the form of CPU Gaming, social networking, and mobile apps. They've got no choice. Our idiosyncrasies have paved way to a young generation socially, and educationally malfunctioning; therefore, the concept of reading for pleasure doesn't register let alone be available for children / youths in impoverish areas, or not. This administration has unrelenting failed children and youths during a time we need them the most to succeed, in uncertain times. There will be a lesser chance that a 'twenty first century Samuel Coleridge' will engage in inspiring contemporary writers in our near future - unless, of course publishing houses successfully embark in tapping into the lucrative gaming market which is designed to engage the child; for example: Perhaps Sonic the Hedgehog collects idioms; maybe a Mario Brother could recite Coleridge's 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' - a hungry Pac-man correcting a maze of text, armed with punctuation. The signs are that through MT (Mobile Technology) 'apps' children are reading via a different means and it is for 'pleasure' - It doesn't replace the library experience by no means but at least the signs are hopeful. The tools are in-place for children to absorb the classics, interact with them in means that was impossible prior the age of digi-ware. What comes with the digital age is a notable detachment from a physical entity - books are more than just a load of text, the physicality of a book is emotive - and that in itself is a reason to pick it up and read it. The emotive formula has been replaced via CPU gaming, instead the child's brain reacts quickly and positively to the colourful interactive graphics than if the child has to read text from a conventional book - without question the device's interactive properties is initially more attractive. Conventional reading methods won't work as effectively now that the 'multi-media in gaming genie' has leapt out of the CPU gaming lamp onto the myriad of portable devices designed for children and kidults, yet still a book is being published every twenty seconds, they're unlikely to see the school reading list or stand erect on your book case - a huge proportion of them will lounge aimlessly in cyberspace in digital format waiting to be sent to a device, never to see the light of day via a printing press. A part of me is in favour of 'opting for a back to basics' literature incentive in schools whereby 'creative writing' and 'poetry' will prominently be a focus in a child's education, preferably orated by Brian Blessed - although, I doubt the education finances would stretch as far as the Blessed vocal from 'Richard the Third', or a Fry narration of Thomas Hardy or an Edgar Allan Poe. What is required is an awe inspiring boost in English literature to spark up a legacy not dissimilar to what the Olympic Games potentially could do for young Britons. Another part of me disdains from inflicting 'establishment' literature onto children which had been vetted by the governance of Whitehall, the very same establishment that felt it appropriate to re-edit 'Ba Ba Black Sheep', under the umbrella of political correctness. Returning to 'traditional values' comes with a responsibility that poetry, novellas, and English literature must be refrained from being doctored, for the sake of fitting a criteria set by the 'PC' brigade. I will look on suspiciously and hope that the education for our, 'children are allowed to find the poems that fit their voices or appeal to their imaginations and ethical background'. (Simon Armitage). About five years ago when Jeff Bezos (Founder of Amazon) relayed his plan for the online e-book my heart sank. I knew it was the start of the end for the conventional book, marketing wise. Since then, the e-readers sprung into the market-place accompanied with a fanfare of advertising, meanwhile in the real market-place libraries are decimated from society - the superfluous online library expands - bells and whistles all inclusive; this inadvertently severed children's relationship with books. It will take a miracle to pull the tide back to when children read for pleasure - even 'King Canute', for all his greatness failed to command the tidal wave of change; it's no different today. In the world of capitalism our innocent children only reflect our greed and absurdities.

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        11.10.2002 01:08
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        I’ve always lived with books and I can’t imagine life without them. I read everything and all the time, when queuing in the supermarket it’s the list of ingredients on food containers, in the post-office the text on other people’s postcards. I can read from all possible angles, so beware when you’re standing in front of me! I still have got some of my earliest children’s books, my mother saw to that and I’m grateful. I’m living now in the sixth town and tenth flat of my life, they’ve always moved with me. Even if I don’t read them any more, it’s good to have them. When we were still living in the GDR (German Democratic Republic), one day something wonderful happened: out of the blue we got a parcel from West Germany with some books, sender unknown. For me it contained Tom Sawyer and The Canterville Ghost, I read the books so often that I soon knew them more or less by heart. I got to know more books by British and American authors (translated into German, of course) after moving to West Germany where we came to a small town in the then American sector to which a library bus from an America House came regularly with Robinson Crusoe, Captain Ahab, Kim, Mowgli, Huckleberry Finn and the Enid Blyton kids. They all became my friends, thanks Yanks! When I was 14 years old a friend gave me a bag full of thrillers, that stock lasted me for a long time as I exchanged them with other thriller fans for years. Thrillers are an Anglo-Saxon thang, after WW2 many translations appeared in Germany (Germans started serious thriller writing only in the 1970s), Agatha Christie, Edgar Wallace, Eric Ambler, Dashiell Hammett, Ellery Queen...name them, I’ve read them all! But not only the great names, when I went off with my friends for a canoeing and camping weekend we took loads of pulp fiction with us. What a nice way of whiling away a (rainy) Sunday : lying in a warm tent and reading trash. My mother was desperate, behind my back she went to my teacher of German and told on me, he - wise man that he was - didn’t talk to me, though, but made the class write down what we had read recently. Assuming that he wasn’t interested in ‘Wedding Night in a Hearse’ and the like I wrote down titles by Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus I had devoured as well and discussed with my classmates (we were between 16 and 17 years old, wore black and smoked, of course!). Again behind my back he informed my mother, who told me about the whole conspiracy years later, that there was no danger of my gliding into mindless stupidity. As a student of English and Russian literature I had no time for thrillers or French existentialism, unwisely I had chosen the 19th century as my main subject and had to plough through thousands of pages of never-ending novels. George Eliot! Dickens! Dostoevsky! Goncharov! The main character in Goncharov’s novel ‘Oblomov’ needs about 50 pages merely to get out of bed! After my exam I was fed up with literature and changed over to non-fiction, newspapers and magazines, for a long while. However, one result of my studies was that I had learnt to read English quickly and when I had recovered and didn’t freak out at the sight of a book any more I went back to thrillers, now the original English versions. Being of age then I didn’t have to justify my reading matter for my mother any longer, I had to justify it for myself and I’ve found a very good excuse which has been valid ever since: no matter what I read in English, it’s good for my vocabulary! As you, my dear and faithful readers have noticed, I’ve diversified, I’ve noticed that the question, “whodunnit?” doesn’t interest me as much as it did before, if a thriller hasn’t got more to offer than the answer to this question I g et bored. What I don’t want to do without now are quirky characters and a humorous and witty writing style. Now I read whatever takes my fancy and write reviews to share my thoughts with you! I read German newspapers and magazines and know about topical German literature, but I hardly ever read it, I haven’t got the time for that, too. Never mind, to tell you the truth, on the whole I prefer English and American literature to German one, the latter often being too serious and profound for my liking. Have I become brainwashed reading too much of your stuff? What can books give us? Firstly, entertainment and pleasure; a well written piece of literature is an aesthetic joy as any other work of art, secondly, insight and knowledge. We only have one life and our experience is limited, by reading of different ways of life and how fictitious characters deal with their problems we can learn to deal with our own. An author can give an idea body and soul and touch us in a way statistics can’t. “Which book would you take with you on an island?” How silly to answer with the title of a novel however long. What do you do once you’ve finished it? Illustrate it? Count the words? For me the Encyclopedia Britannica, please!

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          13.08.2002 10:25
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          In a court of law, the simple story might look a shiftless and ineffectual specimen. At first glance, it serves no other function than to entertain, fulfilling the role of distraction, or fabricated fool. Its purpose is near indefinable. It is, by definition, a lie. Yet humanity has always treasured its stories. A fable is a lesson in life and its mirrors. It demonstrates what it is to be human; through affectations of love or flaw. A story can grow flesh and bones in the mind of a man, it becomes an artificial memory, until it is thought of with all the fondness of an old friend. The predominate purpose of a story is to entertain; to lift us beyond the normal physical or emotional shell of the everyday. Yet in an age of distractions, we can take our leisure from a thousand sources. The diametrically opposed argument suggests that a child, when he does finally pick up a book, should gravitate toward something with a little more impetus than mere diversion. The two schools of thought seem split on this one question: Is fiction devoid of any lesson or consequence that a child (of any age) might take away and foster? If it is, should children be encouraged to discount such trifles, in favour of more educational and valuable material? Or, if a lesson can be proven to be there, then, philosophically, is a simple story any less noble than a parable, if it attempts to impart some moral message? The question is one of worth, and our individual perceptions of it. The pro-fiction camp suggest there are many values that can be demonstrated with a simple tale. Jean Piaget, one of the foremost thinkers on child psychology, insisted on the fundamental importance of the child as his own agent of learning throughout development. He taught that a child goes through various stages of learning, and is unable to mature before the critically important early lessons have been learned. Piaget believed that these lessons are learned through active adaptation of child ren to stimulus, and not through direct instruction, and believed schools should provide children with opportunities to invent and discover. Fiction, in this regard, can be demonstrated as a useful tool of personal and academic learning. As a mountaineer develops his skills on small slopes and gentle peaks before tackling an Everest; so the simplest stories can limber up an inexperienced mind, making the foreboding face of serious literature a more surmountable obstacle. I feel that among all the school lessons teaching of nouns and adjectives, the fun of the language is the one thing that is never covered by a syllabus. The child is expected to come to some noteworthy text self-educated and privately prepared. Those who have not recognised the pleasure in this process, will, I believe, be hampered within the classroom. On a more prosaic level, established products of reading fiction include an increase in vocabulary; a heightened sense of personal and public awareness, a change of mood, to learn of another’s perspective. Narration, or the interaction between characters, can serve to demonstrate social intercourse - all of this, before we even consider the simple treasure of a story. Logic aside, a work of fiction is a fine nepenthe. Beyond the mere curative powers of amusement, a good book will have the resource to instil a sense of worth and purpose in the reader. Many ill moods have been broken by reaching for a favourite author. The comfort found in a formulaic story of love and hope, triumph over adversity is a more potent anti-depressant than any drug in a medico’s satchel. Cannot anything that conveys this warmth be deemed worthwhile? Stan Lee, creator of comic-books, has arguably taught as many children to read and express themselves as a hundred English teachers. These comics often contain wonderful invocations of mood; many are saturated by sorrow and loss, punctuated by moments of euphoria. Are th ey, in the excepted sense “literature”? Of course not. But is it inconceivable that many career readers are born out of early encounters with “lightweight” text? Curiosity and eagerness encourage us to explore such themes. Addressing the negative view: when does a piece of fiction become worthy? Is it upon the tackling of a core of emotions or rationalising a certain theme? Are there rules to define this nobility - and if so, who has the acumen to police them? Must the literary canon be written only by an established elite? I think this is a dangerous supposition, and we are close to promoting censorship with this stance. And what of moral value? It has been suggested that much of the fiction targeted at minors carries little social worth. It lacks depth and dimension; like a picture postcard of a scene; it is something to be admired by the eye and disposed of without further thought. Yet surely even the most basic of tales contain within them simple lessons of right and wrong. Though the characters are endowed with little more flesh than a face and a name, the young reader will identify with the protagonist of a story and recognise them as the hero or heroine - the guiding light. The trials and tribulations faced, be they from another character, or some intangible source, can only be interpreted as a contest between right and wrong, good versus evil. Even if it is on the smallest of scales, the impression is there. But are there times when children should be discouraged from reading fiction? Are there in fact taboos that we as adults should still seek to conceal from the young? When we reach for the off-switch on the remote control to turn off an unsavoury broadcast in the presence of our children, are we in fact removing the visual image, or its interpretation from our child’s mind? With books being the last medium not to be restricted by age brackets, when should we tell a child to put down a text? Sh ould it only be through the revelation of explicit adult themes? At what age should a youngster be comfortable with a “Silence of the Lambs”, or “Lord of the Flies”? And who, besides ourselves as parent’s, should regulate this? The ultimate joy of fiction is that it is its own reward. A simple trick of text can bring colour to a day; sell experiences that one would otherwise never afford. It is a compulsive narcotic; the more you read the more you want to read - and, to me, the value of reading can be juxtaposed with the values learned through it. And so, in conclusion, should we only hope to foist works of knowledge upon our children? I don’t believe so. Better we look less for intellectual profundity in the lives of the young, be there to encourage their pleasures, not dictate them. It is often cited in psychological texts that creativity and imagination cannot be taught. If they could, we would live in a world of writers, poets and artists. Redeemably, it seems, these tremulous phantoms can be coached - but the desire to create needs to be present in the child in the first instance. What better time to start encouraging this growth than in the early years of development - and what better way to promote it than with a couple of thrilling tales?

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            11.08.2002 18:56
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            I was browsing in the local library amongst the homeless amd aged when I unfortunately stumbled upon a one Jane McDonalds autobiography. Alarmed that someone so insignifiancnt has her memoirs out I investigated more to see how many people have booked it out. Im telling you now it was non stop stamps from Jun 2000.Now with all the great writers like Zola and Shakespeare lurking in the shelves with the perverts, why has anyone got this crap out. I thought we saw all we needed to know on that documentary thing on the northern club singer. Her rise from working mans diva to cruise ship front girl, 12 performances a day. This is the woman who let TV put ten years on her and a few quid I her pocket and has now disappeared up the same shipping channel she came from. The second most pointless tome in their was the life and times of, yes fat fag Jeremy Sprake of similar obscure heritage, but harder to get shot of than Geri Halliwells clap. What I can?t get to grips with is these tables and tables of fluorescent ?new contemporary books?. They are all by women writers on their alter ego independent career girls who have tons of sex and drink pints. Trouble is as guys now, they have tons of pints in real life and then throw up in your cab. With no sex in sight. But girls flock to these books for life changing decisions and heroines to follow. But they munch on chocolate and sip the wine, which will turn off the last few guys that actually like ladettes. The best books of course are hard backs at 17.99,which only international bankers and nurses can afford. The peasants have to wait with the loons in the library to read it or six months to when it goes as floppy as Peter Mandelson at Hugh Heffners. They are so bloody heavy to and find that corner of your rucksack that finds the corner of your back. Boy does it take out summer wasps though. Britain is of course a nation of readers where as America isn?t. Only 11 percent buy newspapers there with most not getting past the sports pagese.40 million of the population are classed as illiterate, sorry 40 million and one, I forgot the president!. But the teachers and the Liberians who are the guardians of knowledge earn less than the ecstasy-dealing students walking the school corridors. I wanted some books on history about Northern Ireland last week and nearly all of them were over ten years old. A lot has happened in an Irish decade and you kind of wonder what the point of libraries is in the UK at times. The best way to get the full hit of a great book is for someone to read it to you. The Internet offers that option and voice over work for burnt out actors like Richard O1sullivan.But they charge a pound for a half-hour in Ashfords libraries. If we don?t pay our taxes for free library facilities than what the hell do we!. I read mostly in my lunch hours now and listen to book tapes in the car. I never buy online as the p&p takes the value away from this medium and you waiting for three to five days for the goods. The net is really a souped up mail order scenario and I don?t think it will survive in its current state. You can never find a decent read in a charity shop and the ones from the second hand market stalls always have bogies or blood finger prints on the yellowed pages. I think a lot of new books are stuck in a rut right now with the Men are from Mars flavors and Nick Hornbys various life phases being over cooked and copied. I do read a lot of military fiction like Dale Brown and Tom Clancy. The later has a strong grasp on what s going on out there in world politics and the military. He predicated a jet liner smashing into the Whitehouse and the new book from America called ?Red Squirrel? is quite near the knuckle with British and Italian intelligence. You do wonder at times if terrorist like to take out Americans from ideas in the books and minds of American writers for extra effec t. We had a contest at work the other day on a firing range in Hampshire to the cheapest book we have seen in a bargain bucket nearest to its release. My offerings were cricketers, Richard Blakeys,?Taking it from behind?, he?s a wicket keeper!.And Jeremy Sprakes favourite foods, both 50p in WH Smiths. The winner though was ?Nicky Campbells?A life on the wireless?.

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              02.08.2002 02:28
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              I've never been able to understand people that say they don't enjoy reading. What's not to like? The only possible explanation I can see is that psychologically it reminds them of when they had to read textbooks at school. Reading because someone is telling you to and you're going to get an exam on it is rarely fun, you just can't wait to get to the end. My boyfriend once said that books are something magical in my life, and his comment really struck me. I'd never really given it that much thought, I just knew that I enjoyed to read. The more I thought about it the more I realised how much I rely on books. I always take good care of them and I can read the same one over and over again and discover something new each time. There's something magical about a familiar story and characters that feel like friends, although it does have to be a pretty special book to make me come back more than three or four times. There are far too many others to read! I'll try to put into words for you why I like reading so much. I think it's the versatility of it, reading can do so many things to a person. It can relax you when you're tired or you've had a bad day, it can let you escape into another world temporarily, it can bring out empathy and emotion in a way that no other form of entertainment can for me, it teaches, it informs, and importantly it's something that everyone can share. Different people can read things in different ways and get totally diverse things out of it. Some people only like to read factual books, others want the escapism of fiction. I like both, so long as there are characters I can get to know and things that make me respond. The worst kind of writing for me is that which produces no emotion at all in the reader. Think back to the last film you saw where you'd also read the book. Which did you prefer? I almost always prefer the book because the film is somebody els e's interpretation of the words, not mine. They see the characters, the houses, the towns, everything in a different way. Unless it was a really short book, I also find that the film can never do it justice because they have to miss so much out. Who wants to sit in the cinema for three days just so they can develop the characters properly? Books are great because you can read them anywhere, you can take them at your own pace and you can go back to the bits you didn't understand without annoying everyone else! Unfortunately for me I don't get to read as much as I used to or as much as I would like to. Day to day things like going to work and working out what to have for dinner tend to get in the way. There's nothing I enjoy more at the end of a long day than to curl up in bed with a good book. I look forward to it all day, it's like a special treat that I get to have every day without guilt and it doesn't pile on the calories. I'll read practically anything, as long as it's not too heavy! I'm really grateful to my parents for instilling in me the benefits of reading at a very young age, although obviously they did it in such a way as to allow me to discover how much I actually enjoyed it. There's nothing guaranteed to put a child off doing something quite so much as telling them it's good for them. I remember reading every chance I got, including at the dinner table, but I don't remember my parents ever telling me to stop. (I'm sure they must have done sometimes! They would have forgotten what I looked like.) My mum also taught me to take care of my books in much the same way as my toys, meaning that they would last longer and provide more enjoyment. I confess I may have gone a bit far though. I'll search for the perfect copy in the shop and I rarely lend books out because I can't stand it when people break the spines. Books are to be cherished, they have souls. In case you're looking for something good to read at the moment I'll recommend Chocolat by Joanne Harris, Down Under by Bill Bryson and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. A diverse choice! Thank you for reading this opinion, I hope it has given you some enjoyment. P.S. there didn't seem to be an ideal place to post this op so I hope nobody minds that I've put it here. ************************** "Jill Murphy asked me to write about one of my favourite things to help her celebrate her fourth anniversary of cancer-free living and to remind ourselves of all the nice things in the world. It takes more muscles to make a frown than a smile you know. If you'd like to join in, whether you've only just joined dooyoo, or you've been here ages, you're more than welcome. Just write about one of YOUR favourite things, make your title "A Favourite Thing: [your choice]" and include this paragraph at the foot of your opinion. And post before Friday, 9th August."

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                01.08.2002 03:50
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                I cannot imagine my life without words and the ability to read and write well. I often read a novel a day and keep a journal when I have the time. Being able to do these things gives me power-to express myself, to put feelings to paper and to understand how others think. I remember very vividly being read to from an early age and my Dad reading from Ladybird books to me way back when I lived in Cornwall. It's a skill I'm highly grateful for as throughout secondary when I was being bullied on the bus journey to and from my house I used to try to settle down to a book and take myself away from the pain and into fantasy worlds. I spent one term learning the entire Alfred Lord Tennyson poem "The Lady of Shalott",which I can still recite today.Reading has brought comfort in hard times and is something I will always make time for. Teaching your children to read and write is probably the best power you could give them. Don't be afraid to read aloud to your children and to read with them as they get older,helping them become more fluent and to understand word and sentence structure. I would recommend reading to children from an early early age as possible,they may not seem to understand but I'm sure somehow something must sink in,and I have heard that parents who talk to their children find they talk at an earlier ages but I have no idea whether that is true. I remember my parents encouraging me to write stories even when I was very young or letting me draw pictures then writing the words beside it for me to copy. It may take effort from the parent's side but over time it is very beneficial. Making a habit of switching off the TV and computer and sitting down for a quiet read as a family can be great fun as well as educational. If you know an adult who has problems with literacy skills,or in fact have these problems yourself don't be afraid to admit it. It is fairly vital to be able to use these skill s to communicate so its worth looking into going to classes to build up your skills.The following is a link to a database of adult literacy links and information which you may find helpful. http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/Database/index.html

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                  18.07.2002 03:43
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                  Until I embarked on a university project a couple of years ago, I had never really realised how common it is for people to be unable to read. As part of my project I visited a centre that ran literacy classes for adults and I was shocked by what I encountered. The centre was full of adults who had never learned to read and write. many had problems at home when young or had been kept away from school to look after siblings or keep their parents company. I was however, encouraged by the courses offered by the centre. The students got one on one attention when required. They were also faced with a huge variety of books to choose from. before I visited the centre I had imagined that it would involve "Peter and Jane" books. I could not have been more wrong. The centre boasted a large number of easy reading books of films that the students may have seen, this meant that they did not feel feel patronised by having to read books that were clearly aimed at four years olds. I also got talking to a couple of the students. One woman had worked in an office for years despite the fact that she couldn't read or write at all. She would make excuses (like she hadn't got her glasses with her) to avoid tasks that involved reading. She said that the only time that things went horribly wrong was on Fridays when the workers ordered sandwiches and it was her job to fetch them from the shop. Because she couldn't write them down, she had to try to memorise them and as a result of this often got shouted at for getting the orders wrong (no-one suspected that she had a literacy problems) and she often went and cried in the toilets because of what she believed was her own stupidity. Another man had attended the centre in order to learn how to write a birthday card to his daughter, as without help he was not even capable of doing this (a relatively simple task to most people). At the time that I attended the centre, both of th ese students were doing very well and had come a long way. These students were not stupid, they just did not get the attention they needed to learn when they were younger. In today's world there is no reason why a person should not be able to read. Their experiences do however, show how a literacy problem can affect everyday life as an adult. Children are naturally uinquisitive and it is therefore better to teach a child to read when they are young. I know many people who never pick a book up and for me they are missing out on a whole new world of relaxation, education and escapism. I was incredibly lucky that my mum taught me how to read from a very early age and that she took the time to hear me read to her daily. By the time my little sister was old enough to learn to read, my mum was seriously ill and was unable to take the time and care that she had taken with me, my sister never ever reads now. I belive that this was because she was not encouraged to read from an early age. I think that if a child is given the chance to develop an enthusiasm for reading, it will stay with them for life. They will never be bored because all they will have to do is pick up a book. I also think that it should not just be the responsibility of schools to teach children. I think that parents should take an interest and listen to their children reading in order to encourage them. I think that reading to younger children may also help develop an interest in books. A book is an excellent form of entertainment and reading is something you can do anywhere I do not think that children should not be allowed to watch TV or play computer games, but I think that a certain amount of time each day should be devoted to reading either to or with them, yuo never know they just may decide (like me) that they prefer books.

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                    06.05.2002 18:35
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                    It is certainly a dispiriting sign when we have to question whether we are members of a literate generation and, as a consequence, whether literature and reading still have a prominent and valued place in our society. From a personal perspective I was lucky to be brought up in a household where there was a great deal of emphasis and tradition placed on the necessity and importance of reading and writing, two features of my life that are now irreplaceable and have proved to be invaluable. What causes me the most anguish is to hear people uttering the claim that they 'don't bother with reading the book when there's a film of it to be watched' or to start asking 'what can you get from a book?' My normal answer is that not reading is living in our world, read a piece of fiction and you experience a wealth of different worlds - many better than our own! There is a definite argument for the assertion that too many children have been seduced by the mass media attitude that, like ready-done meals, everything should be there in front of them in minutes without them having to forage for it. Gone are the days when reference books were potential goldmines in which the inquisitive could go in search for the answer to one question and return with a wealth of information about many other subjects. Instead it is now a case of typing a couple of words into the Internet (no criticism of dooyoo though!) and it seems that out come all the answers. As much as schools are able to actively encourage children to read for pleasure, they can only push this so far before it becomes evident that there is a greater pleasure found in chasing the latest video game character across the computer screen or sending some coded message to their friends' mobile phones. The government seems adamant that whilst 'literacy hours' should be promoted, they will refrain from giving money to improve the library since the school evidently needs more computers. In acco rdance with this obsessive updating, the English Literature curriculum has been adjusted so studying Shakespeare may soon become optional. Call me outdated (as many people already do) but how can anyone justify removing one of history's finest exponents of language and fiction and still expect children to have any idea of our literary heritage (and someone who is still a significant influence on modern literature)? Some universities have made it possible to gain an English Literature degree without studying Shakespeare so where lies the hope for those who will be attending in later years? Maybe I'm digressing slightly but it seems that in this hyper-technological age there is a definitely far less emphasis placed on the benefits of devouring the contents of a book. Reading the many book reviews on this site restores some of my faith in the interest and importance attached to reading but I still feel that we are in the minority. Major bookshops like Waterstones and WH Smiths still charge a comparatively extortionate amount of money for books, be it in the children or adult section and this can be off-putting if nothing else. However, this is where the Internet does have a significant advantage with more respectable prices at various web-sites. Whilst some libraries do promote their wares and advertise quite prominently, they are still seen as unfashionable places to go, (especially in those popularity dominated early teenage years) unless like me they offered a sanctuary from those people who didn't share your love of books or just plainly disliked you! It is unrealistic to expect uninitiated teenagers to fully enjoy the pleasures of reading Milton, Coleridge, Keats, Hardy and so on but part of the enjoyment can be seen in the challenge they offer. (many will probably now ask if they are members of the latest boy-band or have just won Pop Idols - or am I being really cynical?) I'm heavily in favour of giving children the opportunity to read a nything, even though some of my more scathing reviews may suggest a certain amount of elitism, but it seems whenever you wax lyrically to people around you about the latest gem of a novel you've just read (Embers in my case - stunning) their apathy reveals that enthusiasm is quite simply wasted. Literacy also includes the ability to write correctly and be able to express yourself clearly but how is it possible to instruct children correctly when many of the newspapers, news programmes and that wonderful language we now see in SMS are unable to reinforce it. Tabloids have always pioneered a different style of language but it is already creeping into the broadsheets, most notably when the columnist is writing with a focus that they seem determined to promote in the most conversational style possible. Maybe I'm out of touch (bearing in mind I'm 20!) but The Times and The Telegraph were always regarded as newspapers who adhered religiously to a formal style of writing, rather than embroidering that latest fashionable phrases into their articles. I'm not labelling all their journalists with this tag but there are a number who seem to be talking rather than writing their articles. Even as I explain this next point I can already feel the knives being sharpened but the nuisance that text messaging has become doesn't help literacy. As children get mobile phones earlier and are drawn in2 abbrv8ted msgs it becomes natural for them to write phonetically, but trying to distinguish between social communication and spelling in formal writing gets harder. I've had to be careful not to descend into a rant with this because literature and literacy is a subject I'm extremely passionate about. I could certainly extend this by a few paragraphs but by now I think you've all suffered enough. I'll finish by revealing that two months ago The Sunday Times contained two extremely interesting articles, one explaining that the Booker Prize winning novelist Arundhati Roy has now achieved the same cultural status as David and Victoria Beckham whilst schoolchildren are more interested in Will Young than William Shakespeare. As long as this trend continues it seems we are going to be fighting a losing battle - vive la Revolution!!

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                      16.10.2001 21:33
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                      Oh dear, I seem to have put my entire opinion into my title.... There's a common belief that books are the source of all knowledge, a necessity to our education and a great way to spend your spare time. Its not surprising therefore that we find anything that competes for that precious reading time is villified by all around. In fact it has become a national 'problem' that our children dont read enough. I'm here to argue that perhaps reading isnt all its cracked up to be, I mean what good does it do us? When we read a book all we get is ideas from an authors mind and an insight into some totally useless idea that could maybe save lives or create a better place for the world. If we read factual books all we learn is how to do something or what someone has managed to achieve over a sustained period of time giving us inspiration in our everyday lives. If we read a Biography we only read what someone else has done, we didnt do it and the only thing its useful for is finding out what mistakes and good things other people have made. In the end books are nothing but a mere small learning curve, a source of information that we can actually get almost anywhere, instead of reading Beckhams autobiography we could just go and speak to the lad for instance..... Right, its time to cut out the sarcasm now, we all know books are valuable sources of information and we all know that we can learn a lot from them, especially factual ones which are able to broaden our minds, but just how important is reading in todays era? We keep getting complaints from a minority that our children play too many video games but personally I think this one is outdated. Video games do take up a certain amount of a childs time at the moment but there are other things now taking over, one of them being the interenet. Via the worlds largest database of information children are now doing all sorts of things and most o f them involve reading. If they are in a chat room then what are they doing? They're READING what other people say and writing replies, broadening their vocabulary from the massive number of people from different cultural backgrounds that they talk to. Never mind David 'I've got 20 bodyguards and a nanny' Beckham, our children are talking to Sahat Mahoul from India who's explaining how he's a human and also loves girls but his religion bans him seeing them..... They also get to play games online, usually having to READ the instructions first. Perhaps its emails we're arguing about, where they have to READ the emails from friends and construct a valid reply. If you ask me, we've gone beyond computer games now, the technological era has given us the internet and now we need to make full use of it. If our children want to sit in front of a screen all day then let them, I'd rather they were online under my supervision typing away to a girl in outer mongolia than sat watching the teletubbies with their disjointed 'lala' and 'whoo doo'. You can argue all you like about how good books are, but nothing can beat personal accounts and the ability to ask questions as you go and have things explained until you understand. Even our small children have a place on the internet of today, under supervision a child learning to read can perhaps send emails to friends and with your help can reply to them, send and recieve all sorts of things. We still need to supervise to make sure they dont wonder onto the wrong pages but surely thats not too much to ask. We have a simple choice right now, get them to read books in a stuffy library which many children hate going to anyway or plug them into the internet and let them talk, read and chat away to their hearts content, they wont even realise they are learning and yet all the time they will be finding out all sorts of new things. If you want to teach them something in particular or put them on lessons then you can even stick them onto the playdays sight or another similar one and away they go. They'll be happy and through doing this they can also learn how to use a computer, something thats vital in todays world, and likely to be even more vital in the future. It may be a bad choice for some, but the internet is the best method we have of getting our children to read and enjoy learning, lets use it. Who knows, maybe it'll even get them interested in those stuffy old libraries when one of their friends tells them about a book they read.....

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                        14.10.2001 19:27
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                        For those of my circle of friends and others who have been reading my reviews, you may have been surprised at my last effort, which was a review of a childrens’ book ideally suited for teenage girls. Before you contact the internet police and have me investigated, let me explain. I have a son at university, whose experiences I have already written about in a number of my reviews and who after only a week has become a prolific dooyooer whose points total has exceeded mine already. My daughter has watched with interest as we converse on the net and by mobile, comparing our efforts, results, ratings, comments and telling each other about other people’s reviews and decided she wanted a slice of the action. She listened and learned as I explained the ins and outs of dooyoo and seized her opportunity when I left the computer open on my profile page and she wrote her review. She was pleased with her modest effort, though when I found out, I decided I should amend it to include a disclaimer that it was actually written by my daughter in practice for her own account. This got me thinking. Dooyoo restricts e-mail addresses to one user, which means that as my daughter does not have an e-mail address she cannot open her own account with dooyoo. I want to encourage her to write as she, like her brother has been a prolific reader from an early age and I feel the more practice she gets, the better she will get and this will help her in her studies, particularly in a few years time with her GCSE’s. I also believe that dooyoo is an ideal forum for that, being a genuine community providing useful hints and helpful criticism as I have received in the past. Presently she does do periodic reviews for the children’s Telegraph and is a member of her school’s press team, but none have the same excitement levels or feedback as dooyoo. I have reservations about children using the internet. Whilst I believe that the media exaggerate the risks there are some weird and dangerous people out there who could take advantage, particularly as dooyoo profiles and the reviews can provide a wealth of information about an individual. So, to the point. What about a dooyoo for kids, where they could write reviews and exchange experiences with other children perhaps in exchange for points which would have no monetary value but could lead to educational vouchers or discounts on family entertainment? This could be part of the present site, though more simplistic or colourful or as a completely separate site with more secure access features and less detailed profile options. I think dooyoo is tremendous and covers a wide variety of people and subjects. Why not broaden it to include kids. Please let me or dooyoo know how you feel about my idea. While I have been writing this, I have received some useful information from Jill in response to my daughter’s review – thanks for that.

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                          12.10.2001 19:34
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                          It's not all that long since I was at school but literacy standards are definitely waning. At primary school we had a spelling test EVERY Friday with 15 words to learn a week. Any that you got wrong had to be written out correctly 5 times. On top of this, we had 2 lessons a week on grammar. Although it seemed horrid at the time, I have long since been grateful. As such, I was appalled at University when other people on my English degree course were criticised by the tutors for having sloppy spelling, grammar and syntax. There really is no excuse, particularly when these essays were word-processed and we have such things as spellchecker! However, the most worrying thing was the friend I had doing teaching courses. I would often read through their essays for them and again the spelling and grammar were awful. These are people going into schools to teach children! Clearly their bad habits are going to get passed on. TV, computer games and such like can be partially blamed for lapses, as children don't read as much as they used to. Thank goodness for the Harry Potter books, perhaps they will inspire children into reading more prolifically. It is not only children though, how many times have you seen hand-written signs in shops with bad spelling and punctuation. I have lost count of the number of misplaced apostrophes I've spotted! No-one is perfect at these kind of things, I know for one that in the heat of typing out a Dooyoo opinion, slips are easily made, but a little effort can make a lot of difference. Spelling mistakes in official letters can appear very unprofessional, affecting your work. So let's drag out those dictionaries and get spelling back on track!

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                            12.10.2001 19:14
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                            I agree teachers must allow children to express themselves freely and I am very keen that local accents and dialects should be preserved. Children should NOT have their spoken language corrected to the "Queen's English" BUT, there is big distinction between accent and grammatically incorrect lazy speech. Dropping the g's and t's off words and speech interspersed with 'in it, yeah, wha', right, ge' it, and well good. This isn't a matter of social class or level of education, its bone idleness. No employers in their right minds are going to employ these kids, and the kids will be the first to complaint they "ai'nt given a look in 'cos the're all snobs, right". There is a vicious circle that needs to be broken between parents, who genuinely did not have the chance of a decent education, and the children today who are given every opportunity. The bad habits, incorrect grammar and lazy speech are introduced to children at the youngest of ages by many TV presenters whose speech is appalling. This is even more unforgivable when some children's programme presenters appear to be badly spoken kids themselves. It ain't cool to talk like wha' you want, it ain't expressing' yerself, it jus' makes yer sound aggressive and obnoxious with a chip on yer shoulder, an' it nee'n't be like tha'. I ain't goin' to employ ya 'cos me customer's will fink wha' the 'ell are you on abou' mate when the geezer at the end of the phone says yeah, wha', dunno; don't you call be fick mate or I'll kick yer 'ead in; because businesses can ill afford to lose any potential customers these days. Any business is summed up in milliseconds by the helpfulness and attitude of the person on the end of the phone. So come on English language teachers, I know you have little time to actually teach these days but please hel p these kids to see the error of their ways and give them a chance.

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                              04.10.2001 23:02
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                              I don’t believe that any amount of parental encouragement will make a child who simply doesn’t like reading any more likely to develop an interest in it. You either love reading or you don’t – it’s as simple as that. I also don’t believe that a lack of interest in reading as a child necessarily affects your aptitude to study and read in the future, and here’s why: I was always a passionate reader. I was reading well at a very early age and very quickly became a serious word junkie. From the age of five upwards, you would never see me without my nose in a book. Reading at night, long after everyone else was in bed, was a favourite pastime – I’d read standing up against the wall in my bedroon, or under the bedcovers with a torch, ready to flick the light off if I heard movement from my parents bedroom. Enid Blyton was my favourite childhood author, but I’d read anything – I just loved it. My brother, on the other hand, who is three years younger than me, was the complete opposite. Books that he was given for Christmas were thrown under the bed, or in the cupboard, and simply ignored. He just didn’t read. It wasn’t that he couldn’t, he learned how to quickly and was considered a bright child at school, it was just that it held no pleasure for him. He was a doer – bikes and football and computer games were his passions. My brother and I went to the same secondary school, got fairly similar grades and liked fairly similar subjects. I went on to study for an English Literature degree – and got a 2.1. He went on to study for a History degree : he got a 2.1. My brother is one of the most intelligent, likeable, well rounded people I know. And I don’t think I’m a bad conversationalist myself! So...We ended up taking pretty similar paths and achieving pretty similar results. I therefore conclude that my brother’s lack of interest in reading at an early age didn’t set him back in later years. I’m of the opinion that had my parents tried to force him to read, or stopped him indulging in the things he enjoyed at an early age, he would have instead developed an intense dislike for the written word, and probably would have rebelled against them, and not achieved the successful academic results that he has. So, I don’t believe that parents should necessarily ‘encourage’ their children to read – unless the encouragement is of the minimal kind. Buy them books, read them bedtime stories, show them that you find reading a pleasant and relaxing activity, by all means, but don’t ‘encourage’ them to the point where reading becomes a forced, unpleasant chore. In any case, if the child is a natural reader, no encouragement will be necessary. I think my Mum should have DIScouraged me from reading – all that torch under the bedcovers stuff as a child has played havoc with my eyesight!!

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                                02.09.2001 02:40
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                                I write this opinion from both the point of view of a parent and a teacher. I studied English at degree level and now co-ordinate the subject within a school, my specialism is in the primary age range. The National Literacy Strategy and the introduction of the Literacy Hour have gone a long way to improve literacy standards in primary school children. The good news is that the scheme is now to be extended to Key Stage 3 so that the success can be built upon. Children are now taking part in clearly structured literacy lessons on a daily basis, this can only be a good thing. I believe that schools are really making huge leaps forward in this area although it will take time to see the results fully. I think where the system fails is that some parents expect all of the learning to take place in school and others want to help their child but don't know how. Education is best provided when parents and schools work in close partnership with each other and reinforce the learning taking place. Types of Parents There are broadly speaking three types of parents that I encounter in school. Type 1 will seek advice, buy books for their children and actively encourage their children to read and write. Type 2 would love their children to develop these skills but aren't quite sure where to start so they share their child's reading book regularly but fail to do anything else. Type 3 are the type that totally depress me! These are the parents that you hear telling their children who are begging to be bought a book at the shops that they are a waste of money and they can have some sweets instead! Books are not a waste of money, I still enjoy reading them from my own childhood. My target audience in this op has to be parent Type 2. I hope that I can give some help to those parents who want to educate their children but don't know how. Choosing books If we are going to improve literacy standards it is important for our yo ungsters (and their parents) to develop a true love of books. Books can teach so many skills and provide hours of pleasure. With so many books around it is difficult to know which one to buy. Start by finding a book that looks attractive and flick through it. Ask yourself if you really want to read this book? Do the illustrations look appealing? Read the blurb on the back cover - does the story sound interesting? You can bet that if you think that it is interesting so will your kids. Don't bother trying to find something that looks educational, the key to learning is fun and enjoyment. If you still aren't sure what to pick ask teachers, other parents, staff in the stores or librarians who will all be pleased that you sought advice from them. Also check out the book reviews on dooyoo. Where to buy? There are a number of places to get books from: 1. Book shops are an ideal starting point obviously. You can browse at your leisure and ask for advice. Some of the well known stores are quite expensive so I go to discount shops where you can pick up best selling children's books for a fraction of the cost. 2. Car boot sales are an excellent place to pick up cheap, good quality books. Check that all the pages are there and that they are not torn or defaced in anyway. It is very demotivating to a child to be given a tatty book. Books should be in good condition and children should be encouraged to keep them that way. 3. Libraries are great places. In my opinion every child should be a member but in my experience very few are. The children love going to the library to choose their own books. The library is a great place to visit on a Saturday morning to stock up on reading material. Many also run activites in the school holidays that are cheap to attend. 4. Book clubs offer you the chance to buy books at reduced prices. You can find adverts for these in parenting magazines (Books For Children sprin gs to mind). Also schools often run book clubs where the goods are sold at discount prices. If you buy through school you will also be helping to raise funds for the library. I run a book club although it does get rather demoralising when so few parents order. 5. Start your own swap club whre you exchange books with other parents who have children roughly the same age as yours. Learning Must Be FUN!!!!! If children are going to develop literacy skills, the learning has to be made fun. There are all kinds of simple yet educational games that you can make and play to develop skills. I intend to write some ops on well known children's books at some stage which will offer ideas on how you can extend from the reading of the text to develop a mini-topic that children will love. Storysacks are also a great way to encourage literacy skills. For those of you who have not encountered these, the idea is that a bag contains props relating to the story. So in the 'Very Hungry Caterpillar' bag for instance you may find a caterpillar, the various items he eats, a butterfly and a book about caterpillars. The children can then have fun acting out the story with the visual aids. You can buy these for around £25-£30 and there is a website at www.storysacks.com . But it is far more fun to make your own sacks along with your children. Children learn best when they don't realise that they are in fact learning. Consider your child's interests and choose books accordingly. For example if you live with a Man Utd fan then find books about the football club. Encourage your child to read them and then make a scrap book about the team. If children are interested in the topic you will have no problem getting them to read. A Few Fun Ideas To Try 1. Introduce books at an early age. Fabric books and bath books are ideal for the very young and also for Special Needs Children who have difficulty turning pages. Books come in many shapes and sizes some even fold out to make models - they are all valuable in developing literacy skills (Shakespeare can wait!). 2. Trace patterns and letters in a sand tray. 3. Allow your child to paint letters in bright colours reinforcing the letter shape. 4. Play snap with flashcards of letters. 5. Cut easily recognisable logos out of packets and then on a trip to the supermarket get your child to match the logo to the correct box. 6. If your child loves T.V. utilise this. Encourage them to plan their viewing by reading the television listings page. 7. Use their television addiction in a positive way. Many of the programmes now have books published too. Or if they are interested in specific programmes such as hospital dramas, buy reference books that are appropriate. 8. Put items into a magic bag and identify them - what letter does each item begin with? 9. Make letter shapes from playdough. 10. I spy never fails and can be done whilst travelling, waiting for the bus etc. 11. Make bedtime stories routine. If you don't feel confident reading one ask someone else to read it onto a tape or borrow the tape from the library. Follow the words in the book with your child. 12. Pretend you've gone mad and read the book upside down, back to front etc. Kids love correcting you and it reinforces their knowledge of the orientation of text. 13. Play rhyming games. Take turns to think of words to rhyme with cat, pin, van etc. 14. Cut out letters from newspaper headlines and get your child to put them in the correct order to make their name. 15. Let your child see you reading and writing on a regular basis, they will want to be just like you! These are just a few of my personal favourite activites. I hope that they may be of some help to someone out there. Remember always stay positive with your child. Some parents come to me and say that they sit there child down every night with their reading books and go over the flashcards until they get everyone of them right. They have to shout and ground them because they don't want to do it - I wonder why? The school reading book should not be regarded as the be all and end all, it is a small part of the whole process. happy reading. Thanks for reading.

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                                  31.08.2001 14:29
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                                  A few months ago I had my first glimpse of what it must be like to be unable to read when I was travelling around Eastern Europe alone. It was fun but at times it began to bug me that I couldn’t understand even the simplest signs, and that I had no one to be worried with. Not only were they in Slovakian or Hungarian or whatever, but they were only in that. In Vienna, for example, things are often explained in English, French and Italian as well as German, but not here. It was pretty scary. I am one of those people who loves to read. I read all the time, and I don’t restrict myself to books. In fact one of the things I like reading most of all, and I know this sounds odd, is the small print in holiday brochures – you know the back pages where they tell you cots are available on request, they cannot be held responsible for building works near your hotel and, since this is not England, you might not get tea and coffee making facilities in your room..... When we designed our ideal houses at primary school, while my friends would draw their big screen TVs, I’d opt for wall to wall bookshelves. We’re getting there at home (hall, living room, morning room, computer room, bedrooms all full of the things, and a sure fire way to tell if I’m around is if there’s a pile of magazines on the scales in the bathroom) and when I was younger we had buckets of books lying around within easy reach – Mr Men, Topsy and Tim, you know the sort. As far as I can remember, books weren’t a treat. They were normal. Bedtime stories came in groups (never just the one) and carried on for years, even after I learnt to read. There’s just something about having someone else do the reading. I’m not sure if I should admit this, but during a break-from-revising shopping trip during A Levels, we came across a new (well new to us) Milly Molly Mandy Book. Bed Time stories re-started until I went to uni (and there was even a relapse for the few days I was at home before coming out here). Hell for me would be a world like in Farenheit 451 where books are banned. I like them, I need them and I’m not happy without them. But, lots of people do not feel this way. If reading is a chore then it’s hardly going to be something you want to do again and again. Believe it or not I know how this feels too. At uni last year I forced myself to read German as well as English books as I really wanted to improve. This was hard work to start with and often I would get fed up halfway through – with an normal novel I usually finish within a day (or two if I have to do something else of the studying/going to work variety). With German, however, it can take me longer, and I get impatient. I’ve talked to others who have this problem when reading in their native language, and I can identify with them. Growing up I loved American magazines and television shows and was always amazed by how pupils could get to the age of 16 or 17 and still be in school based on the fact they were an award winning football player or track star and not be able to read very much at all. I didn’t believe this happened in England too until 6th form when we started having mixed lessons with the boys school. Now don’t get me wrong, this lot could read (and so you would hope after 5, or in some case more, years in small classes at a private school) but we were amazed by how badly they read. We had to read out loud in one subject and sat there stunned as they trundled along, sounding out the words. Pretty pathetic for this macho rugby players :-) So what’s the solution? Being taught to read well early on is important, but there are only so many hours in a day so to increase reading and writing time in schools would detract from other subjects. Small class sizes can help to some extent, but I can read perfectly well and enjoy doing so, and spent my “formative” years in a class with 38 others so it can’t just be that. Setting books to be reviewed is fine but how many pupils really read them, and don’t just watch the film? Some of my friends at uni admit to having got ‘A’s in GCSE English Lit by watching the film the night before and never having read Macbeth or Lord of the Flies. Scary again. Many children do not want to read – they prefer to watch TV, play computer games, surf the net, kick around a football, anything but. The only way I can see to get around this is to show kids how much fun reading is, and this means starting young -if babies and toddlers learn to love books, chances are they’ll grow up loving to read. Top tips (for website details see below):  Read yourself. Show a good example by sharing your reading: newspapers, magazines, letters, birthday cards, etc. Remember, it doesn’t have to just be books – anything will do (even holiday brochures....)  Have books as toys. Keep tough board books in the toy box and play with them together. Buy a bath book – how I loved these when I was little.  Visit your library - it’s free to join! All libraries have children’s sections and some run parents and toddler groups. Saturday afternoons were always library time when I was little – after all morning training in the gym I needed some intellectual stimulation  Make a time to read. Make a bedtime story as much a part of bedtime as brushing teeth. As you saw above, bedtime stories have always been a part of my life  Keep books in your bag. A long wait in the doctor’s surgery or waiting for the bus can seem less boring if you can share a book. When I used to baby-sit I would sometimes take the littlest kids to the park on the sea front. Having a book on hand meant we could enjoy a “quiet time” while they had their snacks.  If English is not your family’s first language, you can buy dual language books. If you speak another language, read foreign stories to your kids in your native language. It doesn’t confuse them as people seem to think, and is a great way to bring them up bilingually (although a certain sister of mine objected to French stories, and indeed people speaking French when she was very young.) Tips on making it fun  Buy books as presents – when I was younger a good deal of my presents were books. For my 18th birthday I think I got about 20 novels (my choice) and right now there is a nice pile waiting for me at home, just begging to be read (bought from amazon in July with dooyoo points, so remember when you read my ops, you’re funding a nice, socially acceptable addiction ;-) )  Read aloud with different voices for the characters, and you can also add in some sound effects. Don’t feel silly doing so. The way I’ll always remember Enid Blyton books is in my mother’s voice. When I babysat for one family I used to take lots of books along and we’d all gather on the youngest’s bed and read for an hour or so (oh my voice – I’m in awe of all parents who do this daily, once or twice a month was enough for me)  Change the words in their favourite story and see if they notice – I did. Missing out pages or changing bits never worked with me although luckily (?) it did with some of my babysitees when I had just had enough  Tell stories about when you were little – often so much better than “proper” stories since they are usually mostly true.  Listen to story tapes. – great for in the car, or when your voice has gone. Oh, the memories of my Mr Pinkwhistle tape....  Have alphabet magnets on the fridge and make words together. Or do as our family did and collect sma rtie tops (the coloured things on the end of the tubes). We must have hundreds in various Parmesan (!) containers in the cupboard. Once I took these into Guides for a patrol activity and people were amazed (and perhaps scared) by how many we had. To collect them, don’t just keep yours from the tubes, pick them up off the floor and disinfect when you get home (and don’t get me started on how kids these days need a bit of dirt to keep them healthy.....) Some websites : www.rif.org.uk (where a lot of these tips came from) www.familyschool.com (American, but other that that great ;-) ) Hope this helps. Reading rulz! (Answers below relate to the kids for whom I've babysat)

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