“Ok children, settle down, relax and listen while I tell you a story…” These have to be some of the most precious words many of us have said to our classes – fond memories of shared moments, unbridled pleasure and a love of the spoken and written word. All too often it’s a phrase missing from classrooms. The burden of a cluttered curriculum, the pressure of year on year progress and the fear of a visit from the inspectors – with their agenda of evidencing learning at all times, means that reading aloud to children is for some teachers an impossible dream. It shouldn’t be. What better learning is there than learning to listen; to enjoy the cadence of a voice as it takes you on journeys to other worlds; to experience vocabulary beyond your reading ability, words that wouldn’t arise in your daily interactions; to take time out for pleasure; to learn to remember and resume with a narrative; a chance to predict, to make deductions and to problem solve. Reading aloud to children opens up a new space in the classroom, somewhere where the ordinary pressures and hierarchies of school dissolve. The book rules – not the endpoint of a level 4 in reading, writing and mathematics.
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Rachel Clarke, Primary English Consultant