Tuesday, 17 September 2013

More reading news

It’s no time since I last blogged about reading news, but already there’s a whole lot more.

First, a very exciting reading-based dance project. Today I met up with choreographer Lizzi Kew Ross to discuss Reading with Bach, a wonderful promenade piece she is planning. Lizzi’s work is often inspired by the spoken or written word, and this is no exception. It will explore the impact reading and books have on us, through music and dance. Several libraries have already signed up as venues, but Lizzi is on the look-out for extra performance spaces, and for collaborators. She is considering special performances for children.

While not focused on reading, an intriguing new piece of research looks at how children distinguish fantasy from reality, and is surely very pertinent to their experience of books. Emotions influence children’s fantasy-reality judgments. Young children often say a hero character is real because they like them, whereas they believe that villains like Captain Hook are made up because they are mean.

An important longitudinal study from the Institute of Education shows reading for pleasure has a powerful influence on cognitive development (more powerful than having a parent with a degree). Reading books often at 10 and reading books and newspapers more than once a week at 16 significantly improves vocabulary, spelling and maths. Home reading culture is crucial. How sad then to see that bedtime reading is on the decline. While 87% of the mothers polled believe it’s vital to children’s education and development, only 64% read their children bedtime stories, and just 13% do so every day. Stress and lack of time are factors; so too are television and computer games. Another new report tells us 44% of parents of 6-11 year-olds rarely or never read with their child once they reach 7. It urges parents to keep reading to their children throughout primary school, as one of the best ways to support their education, and to foster reading enjoyment. Horrid Henry author Francesca Simon believes nothing is more special than reading to children – I agree totally – and provides ten fabulous tips to make bedtime reading fun. I especially love Tip 10: Try not to sob, though my daughter has just informed me on the phone that I failed more than once on this one.

Just one further study to mention, this time one that makes me laugh. An American survey has discovered that sales are higher in bookshops that smell of chocolate.

Finally, Anthony Horowitz in the Observer Magazine: ‘The last thing we need is people banging on to children about how they should read. We just need to make sure that all schools have a library.’