Reading and My Very Special Learners.

The Guardian recently printed a research project which found that teachers who read for pleasure are more confident, have better knowledge of books and are calmer in the classroom. The research concludes that trainee teachers should be encouraged to read as part of their professional development. Indeed, teachers should be role models for their pupils and develop knowledge of children’s literature. Apparently teachers who read for pleasure are less stressed and use their book reading scenarios to help solve their real life problems. Later in the post I was shocked to read that the trainees included in this research often didn’t read for pleasure due to lack of time. I’m struggling with this. I can’t imagine not reading for pleasure for just a little part of my day, no matter how busy I am. As teachers we are always pushed for time, this is true. Our reading is often dedicated to furthering subject knowledge or to developing our teaching, classroom or management skills. That said, at the end of every day I always find around 15 minutes to read purely for pleasure. This is my little bit of escapism. Often it’s not the best thing I’ve ever read but it is a book of my choice and I feel like I’m in control if I can spare this little bit of time for me.

Reading has been a near life long habit for me. I was reading before I went to school thanks to my Mum. I’ve been told that I was such an avid reader the teachers struggled to find books for me to read. Not, I hasten to add, because I’m clever, just because I was so widely read.

As an adult I love reading to children. I always have. For me it fosters their own love of reading and helps young children master the spoken language. When my own children were learning to talk I read to them every day. We visited libraries and they learned to love books just as I do. To this day when I bring reading books home to plan lessons my own daughters still pick them up and flick through them. Old habits die hard it seems, especially when it comes to children’s books. One is now a book reviewer for a major high street chain as a side line to her main career.

As many of you will know my class are very special children. The ability span for this year is P4- P8 and they are age 11-14 years. Very special children. There is not one single reader amongst them but they all love a good story. Not your average book aimed at children who achieve within the P Levels but a really good ‘get your teeth in to it’ tale. I ad lib through books aimed at much older readers and they love it. Recently I’ve worked my way through The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ which was stressful when the little boy died at the end. That took some explaining I can tell you. Next I read ‘Lord of The Flies’. We had some good fun with that one I can promise you, apart from when one of the boys died. Generally, and rather unfortunately there seems to be a theme running through the books I read to my class, someone always dies! Even if I pick one up randomly that I’ve never read before I can almost guarantee someone will die within its pages. One of my little cherubs now says ‘Who’s going to die in this book Cherryl’? whenever he sees me with a book in my hand.

My Headteacher used to say it is a gift being able to read properly to children, especially those with additional needs. I think he’s right. The pitch and tone, the rise and fall of your voice has to be just perfect to hold their attention for any length of time. Most teachers have the skill to do this. This is the reason why I’m astounded that there was any need to conduct research in to teachers reading children’s books. I’m totally amazed. I truly thought this was something all primary teachers did.

Personally I do my best to give my special children the gift of books which they have no access to for themselves and they thoroughly enjoy it. This term we are reading The Secret Garden’ by Francis Hodgson Burnett. Guess what? No one dies! However, I will be grateful for any advice to help me explain to the very poorly children just how the boy with the incurable illness is suddenly cured. Help anyone?!

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