P is 10, and is a Looked After child. When we first started reading together, he couldn’t be bothered with books. He quite enjoying spending time with me and playing games and chatting, but would get very disgruntled when I started reading to him, and would do anything he could to distract me away from books. This situation went on for months – all of the books I were bringing were, I thought, fun, bright books, Roald Dahl, Jeremy Strong, Frank Cottrell Boyce – books that I thought he would like because they were quite funny and, I felt, quite relevant to the modern child. But none of them were working! He would protest, ‘I hate reading’, ‘reading’s boring!’
Until, one day, I brought The Reader’s Organisation new publication, A Little, Aloud for Children. This was a breakthrough book for P. To my surprise, it was the really dense, older, trickier stuff in the book that grabbed his attention, and the darker the better – he loved it! The stuff that was as far from modern reality as possible. His favourites were Dracula by Bram Stoker and The Invisible Man by H.G Wells. I think he loved the respect that went with reading this type of stuff together – by giving him the older, harder literature, I was saying to him that he was mature enough for reading serious literature with me. The length of the extracts worked well too – there was a real sense of achievement when we had finished each story, and he would love deciding which one to read the next week. This excitement with the book lasted every week, right until we finished our one to one sessions.
I was holding an awards ceremony for children who I read with one to one, and when I told P that I would be reading a poem to everyone at the ceremony, to my great surprise he asked, ‘can I read one, too?’ I explained that there would be up to 50 people there, but this didn’t faze him. When, P got up and read ‘Amulet’ by Ted Hughes with much gusto to the audience at the ceremony, and followed this by a little bow, the power of one to one reading for pleasure really hit me. Now that P’s one to one sessions have ended, he is voluntarily attending a reading for pleasure club every Friday after school.
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