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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 June, 2004, 17:59 GMT 18:59 UK
Pupils 'not taught to love books'
children in library
Children need adults to be enthusiastic, says laureate
The Children's Laureate has said many teachers are failing to enthuse their pupils with a love of reading.

Michael Morpurgo, who was reading to children in Stornoway in the Isle of Lewis on Tuesday, said there were very many good teachers.

But he said others made it clear they had no interest in literature, and that could rub off on their charges.

He said teachers themselves needed better training if they were to inspire future generations to love books.

'Engrossed'

Mr Morpurgo said that when he and fellow writers visited schoolchildren they tried to communicate their love of reading.

"I read stories to them and hope it enthuses them - which it clearly did today - then they may turn to a book afterwards," he told BBC News Online.

"I have just done a session with 350 children. You could see the teachers leaning forwards themselves, totally engrossed, and the children were too.

"If the adult around is enthusiastic the likelihood is the children will be.

"But I have had them reading newspapers, reading books, marking the registers, doing all sorts of stuff.

"That's not likely to inspire children and makes my job much harder because I have to inspire them in spite of the teachers."

'Little interest'

He did not believe it was a case of teachers being overloaded and seizing the moment to get some paperwork done.

Michael Morpurgo at a previous reading session
"I'm a teacher myself and I ain't teacher-bashing.

"The best teachers make time for these things. Many, when you are there, are so totally engrossed themselves.

"As children's writers going round schools ... we meet teachers who don't like reading much themselves, therefore take precious little interest when you come, don't prepare for it, don't follow up afterwards," he said.

"You have got to read books as if you love them - in fact you do have to love them.

"We are giving teachers really an impossible brief: we say you have to teach the children literacy, but what we are not doing is teaching the teachers to love reading in the first place."

He and some friends in Stornoway have come up with a list of 10 books they think would make good starting points for enthusing children (his only reservation being that none of his books is on the list).

In no particular order:

  • The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (3+)
  • George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl (ages 6+)
  • The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith (6+)
  • Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson (8 to 12)
  • Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (10+)
  • Montmorency, by Eleanor Updale (10+)
  • Goodnight, Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian (10+)
  • Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (10+)
  • Kit's Wilderness by David Almond (11+)
  • The Rattle Bag, selected by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes (0 to 100)



SEE ALSO:
Reading 'turn-off' for many teens
08 Jun 04  |  Scotland
Children's laureate named
14 May 03  |  Entertainment
Children hit by 'weak' teaching
09 Dec 03  |  Education
Children more confident readers
02 Dec 03  |  Education
Media studies: The next generation
30 Jan 04  |  Magazine


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