Literacy is a fundamental human right and recently has been publicly declared so in a number of high-profile international declarations, so why are we still not quite hitting our targets? This, and many other issues, are superbly covered in this new book identifying the barriers to successful development of children as readers.
Editor Joy Court is well known in the world of libraries and children’s reading thanks to her tireless work in the field. She is a familiar face on national steering and strategy groups for reading, and is a great champion for both school and public libraries. This new book of reading strategies has been edited by Court, and she also has a significant contribution to the content. Inside you can find strategies for encouraging reluctant readers and those with specific difficulties, as well as methods of promoting the joy of reading and supporting reading for pleasure. It also contains a huge amount of robust evidence and references many international studies relating to children’s reading.
The book is broken down into chapters, each one written by a different expert from the field of children’s reading. The contributors list is a gathering of people representing the gold standard of work in the field of children's literacy, and each person has written a chapter covering their specific area of expertise. Here you can find chapters from (among others) Wendy Cooling, Dr Rose Brock, Jake Hope, Yeejoo Lim, Amy McKay, Alexandra Strick and Mervi Heikkila – contributions from all over the world making up a wide range of approaches. All of the chapters make for fascinating reading, and each one is well supported with references to robust research and evidence.
This book is a great read (no pun intended!), but it is far more than that. This is an essential toolkit for anyone working with children’s reading. Alongside the research there are many practical ideas for parents, librarians and teachers to take reading forward. Carrying this book around is the equivalent of having a vast library of information at your fingertips, curated by some of the finest librarians and experts. Personally I consider the index a thing of great beauty and the references and appendices are a wonderful resource on their own.
I won’t lie to you; this is not a cheap book. At £55 (£44 for CILIP members) I know that most of us will feel a little faint at the price, however this is due to the huge cost of putting together an academic book like this. Many of us advise schools and educational establishments on how to better support reading, and I would suggest that you add this to your list of suggested resources. If every school had a copy of this book, and referred to it and used it to guide their reading strategies, we would see a speedy rise in literacy levels. But, as we all know, it’s not all about levels and education, this book strongly supports the joy of reading, and the love of books. Inside the pages I was delighted to find much to support reading for pleasure and to creating in young readers a life-long love of books and reading.
I’ll end this review with a quote from for children's Laureate, Chris Riddell, written for the foreword of the book.
“Reading for pleasure is the lamp post in the wood. Any librarian who has matched a child to a book, any teacher who reads aloud to their class at the end of the day, and parent who shared a book at bedtime with a son or daughter knows this. Turn the key in the lock, open the door, step inside and brush through the old fur coats. Keep going and you’ll find the lamp post in the wood. Keep going and you’ll find a lifetime of insight and empathy.”
Reviewed by Dawn Finch, children's author and librarian, reading and children's book professional. Former President CILIP, member of the Society of Authors' Children's Writers and Illustrators Committee