Like most teachers, I know the lure and the dangers of labelling children, and try to avoid doing it. Charlie’s a boy aged ten, who’s in Y5. Why reduce him to ‘a Year 5’? It’s quicker, of course, and only lasts12 months. It has meaning within a limited context, but like all labels, it excludes everything else that Charlie ‘is’. More objectionable are sticky negative labels that a child may never be able to remove. Of course, positive labels are just as reductionist – what does Maisie do beyond incarnating an Able Infant? – but the connotations they accrue, the life paths they signal, the prophecies they help fulfil, somehow don’t grate so much.
But if we accept the welcome effect of some labels, we must worry about the negative fall-out from others. One that I’m fixated on at the moment is Reluctant Reader. Several students have come to me dragging that millstone. I tell them I’ll have none of it, and we set about removing the ‘reluctant’ element. I admit to being more favourably inclined to Reader... The American writer, James Patterson, puts it well:
“There’s no such thing as a kid who hates reading. There are just kids who love reading, and kids who are reading the wrong books. We need to help them find the right books.”
Have a look at his website Read Kiddo Read for the wonderfully named I-hated-to-Read-Until-I-Read-This Booklist for Boys. There’s a mix of genres and countries of publication, and free extracts to download.
Try the UK recommendation site Love Reading For Kids for other booklists and extracts.
I think we’d all agree with their pitch that:
Reading is fundamental to the development of children, and countless research shows the links between good reading skills from an early age and future success in life.