Sorry about my uninteresting title, but I am writing about young people reading; much anxiety has been expressed about young people no longer reading – reading books is what is meant, young people read a huge amount in other ways, texts, blogs, net-stuff… but there seems to heave been a general decline in the number of actual books which are being read. A year ago, the BBC launched a ‘get reading’ campaign, which included

  • A children’s books season  celebrating the life and work of Roald Dahl; a film following a group of primary school children  learning to read. Radio dramatisations of Roald Dahl’s autobiographies Boy and Going Solo; an Awesome Authors Live event and storytelling season; a short story competition for children
  • a nationwide online campaign The Book That Inspired Me -the books that mattered most to 21st Century Britons.
  • Get Reading Weekend.
  • Programmes celebrating great writers – Alex Garland, Toni Morrison, Jeanette Winterson, Rudyard Kipling; TV series – The Secrets Of The Books We Love ; Radio 2 Book Club
  • BBC Shakespeare Festival 2016
  •  Books On The BBC with blogs

Earlier this month ‘#LovetoRead: Celebrating the pleasures of reading‘ was launched, featuring Sue Townsend, Michael Palin, Marlon James, Willy Russell, Julie Walters, Chris Packham, Suggs, Cerys Matthews, Andrew Marr and many more.

So what has gone wrong with reading? I’m sure it’s not just that there are so many other things to do, I think it goes back to schools and the change there has been in education – that there isn’t the time for reading in the prescriptive and restricted timetables. Reading lists are given, rather than libraries full of books relevant to the children in the particular school or area, targets are set and then new targets are set, new schemes introduced, abandoned, and a different new scheme arrives to baffle the teachers and kids… or that’s how it seems to me, but I have been out of teaching for a while now, and I was glad when I left as I was being pushed into a straitjacket of rules and ‘initiatives…’

Anyway… I was very cheered on Thursday when we went to visit the American Museum in Bath and went into the carpark, and there was a young lad in charge of parking, who was waving people into available spaces and making sure they parked sensibly; his waving and pointing hand was gloved, and in his other hand was an open book, and as soon as a he had a moment he would be looking back at his book, reading on the job, a very boring job. I wish I could have seen what the book was…

I was further cheered today in Bristol, in Cabot Circus shopping centre; we were in a clothes shop, a big fashionable clothes shop, and there was a family, mum, dad, two younger kids, and a boy of about fourteen and fifteen. He was reading; he had half an eye on his family but the other eye and a half were on a book in which he was clearly engrossed. Again, I didn’t see what he was reading.

So in the space of three days, I saw two young men, both absolutely absorbed in the books they were reading. Hurrah!

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