Thursday, 2 January 2014

Children's Laureate Special

I have just listened to Radio 4's “Open Book” on iPlayer (originally broadcast on 2.1.13 at 3.30pm) – I don’t normally catch this programme as usually I’m at work at this time but it was a Children’s Laureate Special featuring Malorie Blackman, Michael Rosen and Jacqueline Wilson, so I was quite interested to find out what they were going to talk about.
As you’d expect, much of it was around the Children’s Laureate position, how it came about and what it was for. All three said that they felt children’s books needed champions (the more the merrier, I say); they also mentioned that it was necessary to “go on the attack” regarding children’s books and Michael Rosen declared that they needed “passionate people” for this.

There then followed some discussion about reading for pleasure and why it was essential due to the result of various studies showing all sorts of benefits. I was amused when Jacqueline Wilson said that reading aloud was also important although you couldn’t do it to “hulking teenagers” … she obviously hasn’t been in my library! I often read to my lower school library classes – sometimes a book extract, sometimes a short story or a picture book – and, when I do, every other student in my library stops what they are doing to listen, including the hulking teenagers and the sixth formers. It’s not as if I’m reading that loud as my library is sectioned into zones to allow for different activities! I know they should be getting on with their own work but I don’t have the heart to tell them to do so and judging by the pleasure they get from this activity, I often wonder if they were ever read to as children or whether the last time this happened was when they were in Junior School.
The programme wound up with a conversation about how teachers often don’t have the time to read to children, about how authors in schools reach those who don’t like reading and how important it is to change the attitudes of those who think reading is “boring” … to try and find that one book that will connect with them.

It’s great that children’s books have been given this media time BUT … not once was there a mention of the school librarian. The very person who is passionate about children’s books and reading, the champion that is so important, the person who usually organises the author visits and who  has the time and expertise to connect children with books, to change that attitude from “boring” to “this book is cool”!
I cannot understand this. Each of those authors has openly supported school libraries and librarians. Each of them must have met many librarians and been into many school libraries so it’s not as if they have no idea about the sort of work we do. Therefore why did none of them even hint at the fact that a school librarian is the one person you need to fulfil all of those things that they mentioned as being so important. Why are we so invisible … even to our supporters?

Malorie, Michael and Jacqueline … I love your books, the children love your books, I will tell anybody who cares to listen (and even those who don’t) about the importance of author visits and the impact they have. I also tell them about how vital a school library and librarian is but it would have more impact if you could also pass this message on!


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