A new initiative launched by the Scottish Book Trust will see every child in primary one at Scottish schools receive a free book. The book, What The Ladybird Heard, is written by Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson, and 60,000 copies of the book are being sent to classrooms throughout Scotland. The Scottish Book Trust’s campaign aims to encourage a lifelong love of reading, and they should be congratulated for a wonderful idea.
I have my own parents to thank for instilling in me a lifelong love of books, and for having always encouraged me to write, and it’s important that parents continue to do so.
When my children were growing up, we always read to them, and encouraged them to read, while trips to the library were a regular weekend activity. In saying that, they have different levels of interest in reading books – Rebecca reads all the time, Louise does so occasionally, and Andrew never reads books, not even mine! To be fair, he reads newspapers and football magazines, but books, as he tells me, are not for him.
Teachers also play an important role in encouraging children to read, and I think they do a wonderful job, though I fear too often that’s forgotten. In a week when our teachers are going on strike, it made me think again that we don’t value the men and women who we trust to educate our children as much as we should. They are professionals doing what I believe is one of the most important jobs in our society, and they should be acknowledged as such – both in our attitude towards them and also in the way they are rewarded.
I will declare a slight bias in that both my parents were teachers, so I know how hard teachers work and how important that work is. I also remember teachers who helped to feed my love of books – my English teacher in fifth year at secondary school who gave us Catch 22 to study, or my primary seven teacher who would read to us every Friday afternoon.
I still remember her reading Master of Morgana, a brilliant adventure story by Allan Campbell McLean set on the Isle of Skye. She would read a chapter every week but after a couple of weeks, I couldn’t wait to find out what happened, so I got the book out the library and finished it one weekend. That was commendable enough, but I stupidly went into school on the Monday and told everyone else how the book ended, which got me the belt for my troubles! Thankfully, it didn’t put me off reading.
I was invited to Sacred Heart Primary School in Bridgeton, Glasgow, earlier this year during their Literacy Week. The school asked a number of adults to come in to speak to pupils about their favourite book from childhood as a way of encouraging reading, and I took in Master of Morgana, and spoke about that book. It was a great experience and I left the book for the kids to finish. Hopefully, some of them will enjoy it as much as I did, and still do.
Of course, there have been a whole host of initiatives aimed at encouraging children to read. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, for example, is working with the Scottish Government and the Scottish Book Trust to give every looked-after children in Scotland a free book every month until their fifth birthday. There are over 3,000 looked-after children in Scotland, and the initiative aims to give every one of these children their own little library while also encouraging their parents and carers to read to them.
Not content with giving us the wonderful song, Jolene, Dolly Parton is also helping get our kids to read and for that we should be thankful.
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