Are Schools Destroying the Power of Stories?

Does anyone remember E.R.I.C.? Everybody Read In Class? As a young reader, I have fond memories of that hallowed time when the whole class, teacher included, sat and read for fifteen minutes or so after lunch.

D.E.A.R. is a more recent alternative – Drop Everything And Read. But in the days of phonics groups, maths interventions, guided reading, comprehension, grammar and punctuation tests, and so much more, how many schools have the time to “waste” on this?

strongman dear

I’ve just been reading the Guardian article on Frank Cottrell Boyce’s David Fickling Lecture, where he argues that:

“…the transformative power of reading is under threat in an education system obsessed with targets and literacy.”

These are strong words, but ring true.

“I visit many schools. I see amazing, creative work being done – especially in primary schools. But I have a nagging fear that in encouraging literacy we are killing the pleasure of reading.”

It’s nice to see Cottrell Boyce acknowledging the creative work being done in primary schools. Teaching is an incredibly difficult, and incredibly personal job. And it can hurt when we read articles about the failures of the system, even if we agree. As teachers, we work hard to get children engaged, to find the genre they enjoy, to get them to understand the ins and outs of vocabulary and grammar.

But part of the reason that children find reading and writing a challenge is the lack of pleasure they receive from carrying out these tasks. Teachers are forced to make every single second in the classroom purposeful. Every moment a learning opportunity. Where is the time for pleasure?

Cottrell Boyce offers some advice, aimed at teachers and parents:

“Read aloud. Just do it. As a treat. We think of reading as a solitary activity but some of my most important reading experiences were very much shared.”

Oral storytelling has died a death in our culture. We carry stories in books, on paper, on our devices, in the cloud. But not often enough in our minds, in our hearts, or on our tongues.

Frank finishes with a beautiful sentiment:

“[Stories] …should be sunlight pouring down upon your head and being stored as energy until the day you need them. Whenever we ask for something in return, they are taking that powerful charge and earthing it. Wasting it into the ground. May I take this opportunity to wish you all endless sunlight.”

This is a strong metaphor, and a warning that if we want our children to be engaged and enthused by stories, then we must allow them the chance to take pleasure from them.


Reginald Write
Smart Stories

Smart Stories aims to enthuse children by allowing them to tell their own stories based on exciting and informative experiences. We’re currently fundraising to support our writing workshops for primary schools. We’d be hugely grateful for clicks, shares, likes or contributions.

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