Ms Musgrove: Reading for Joy

As I was re-reading the recently published Reading Framework by the Government, there was one page which really highlighted to me the importance of reading to your child.

As the Framework states:

All talk is useful, especially when directed to the child specifically. For instance, children expand their language and vocabulary when they listen to or join in with a story or rhymes in a well-scripted children’s television programme or at a library ‘Rhyme time’, but an adult talking about it with them adds benefits. However, talk about books brings particular advantages.

First, parents who engage their children in books prepare them to become committed and enthusiastic readers: they can transform their attitudes to reading. Their children learn to focus and share the enjoyment of the story; they learn how stories start and finish, and how a plot unravels and is resolved; they learn that books can transport them elsewhere. Without this, as Wolf said, they cannot experience ‘the exquisite joys of immersion in the reading life.’

Second, book-related talk introduces children to language that they might not hear in ordinary conversation, especially the vocabulary of the book itself.  This primes them to understand what they read later, in their leisure reading and across the curriculum.

Researchers in the United States who had looked at the impact of parents reading with their children quoted the following figures in a news release about their findings:

Here’s how many words kids would have heard by the time they were 5 years old:

Never read to, 4,662 words;

1–2 times per week, 63,570 words;

3–5 times per week, 169,520 words; daily, 296,660 words; and five books a day, 1,483,300 words.

As the girls and teachers returned to school after half term, a question I asked many of them in the Prep School was, ‘What did you do in the holidays?’ ‘What books did you read during the holiday?’ To these questions, I also added, ‘What books did you have read to you?’

Time is a precious commodity and as busy adults it is not easy to juggle work, family, friends and then fit in reading. However, when you read statistics like this, it is hard not to prioritise reading to your child, how many of us scroll our phones as a distraction (I can confess to this.) Five or ten minutes reading aloud is a powerful thing – not only does it widen your child’s vocabulary it also means time together, deepening relationships, talking about themes which may be hard to discuss in normal day life, particularly with the images from the news.

A holiday treat for a teacher is to have the time to read books, uninterrupted. Preceding this (sometimes weeks before in holiday anticipation) is the necessary visit to the bookshop. Inside these establishments, steeped in their own history, it feels exciting. The curiosity of new titles, the warmth of flicking through a familiar title, like bumping into an old friend.

However, it is not the adult book section I gravitate towards but the children’s shelves. The glossy picture book covers attract further investigation and have inspired many a Prep Assembly. However, holiday reading is time for chapter books! I love reading children’s fiction, yes, it is part of my job but it is also a real pleasure. My current ‘go-to;’ children’s author is Kataya Baylen. The way an author describes the world and the character’s experiences means you can step into someone else’s shoes and feel what they are feeling. If you want to understand, or to teach your own children, how to be empathetic, read children’s books.

Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise, Kathering Rundell argues that children’s literature offers unique insights and distinctive imaginative experiences to adults. “Defy those who would tell you to be serious,” she writes, “those who would limit joy in the name of propriety. Cut shame off at the knees… Plunge yourself soul-forward into a children’s book: see if you do not find in them an unexpected alchemy; if they will not un-dig in you something half hidden and half forgotten.”

With Miss Ashton joining Sutton High School as our new Deputy Head, who studied English at Edinburgh University and a MA in Children’s Literature with Michael Rosen (could there be a better tutor?!) we are breathing new life into our school library. With newly painted walls, new books, birthday books which the girls have donated it is becoming a place to gravitate towards, a place to enjoy the moment, absorb yourself in a story. This is our School Library.

Our Year 6 Leaders made pledges when applying for their roles. A number of the pledges revolved around recycling but also about book exchange. Therefore, we are proud to open Grove Road Bookshop in Classroom NS (along with Grove Coffee Shop…although the plastic biscuits need some work!) It will be open on a Monday and Friday lunchtime 1pm to 1:30pm, girls will line up outside the Fernwood door at the bottom of the Year 2 staircase (EYFS to Y2 will be accompanied to the Bookshop.) The idea is simple – bring in a book, take a book – it is a book swap. The books will have a sticker on to identify them as Grove Road Books and books donated should be in relatively good condition. We are not expecting Book Swap books to be returned, unless your daughter would like to swap them again. I am certain we will refine and develop this idea further. Our aim is for everyone to read for the pure joy of it.

Sutton High Prep School

86 Grove Road, Sutton,
Surrey, SM1 2AL
T. 020 8225 3072

Sutton High Senior School

55 Cheam Road, Sutton,
Surrey, SM1 2AX
T. 020 8642 0594