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Reading Rocks

My longest ever blog post, but maybe you'll read it and then go back over others and read and share, follow even...

Does Reading Rock?

I’d hope so, it’s better than pretty much any other leisure activity other than exercise. In some ways it should be a sort of law that we all spend 20 minutes actually bothering to move/walk/jog/run or other equivalent and also the same for reading… BUT not online!

In fact, the one thing I would wholly advocate is stop relying on IT and online for the majority of use, just stop. Use feet and eyes and ears, listening is pretty much as good as seeing, audio works and I’d allow that to come from streaming/online, but please drop the screen time.

So Heather and her team along with Cathy Cassidy and others have created a superb event, it’s been running for a while, I was aware, a teacher friend questioned why I’d not gone, I stupidly assumed it was expensive as it was a conference and arguably mostly aimed at teachers, not meaning they can afford it, more that they would have had funding for it, she kindly pointed out it was basically a tenner and I immediately apologised and then started being a more avid follower and when a conference in Liverpool was aired I knew I had to go.

In fairness, it is mainly aimed at teachers, nothing wrong in that, but I’d advocate running it on a school day and allowing teachers their weekends free, the ‘cost’ could be used differently then, schools could get a free place at the conference if they pay someone to come in and cover a class doing a day of reading and maybe a little writing, make ‘supply’ work for a much greater good than just needed cover.

If I was to drop hints about future conferences, I’d do two things, maybe the format for teachers works fine, maybe they don’t mind a Saturday communal reading hug and that’s good if so. I’d hugely advocate adding sessions for library use and include asking and bringing parents and maybe children along and making it a fun day to embrace books and reading, get a few storytellers involved, drops hint, I do that, ask a few more authors too, they are out there. Then the balance between empowering the educator and accessing the educated to see and hear more would balance well.

So, what was the agenda, in all cases it was positive and productive. There was a lovely intro from the very humble but obviously wonderful Heather, who deserves at least a huge communal RT and such when we are online. She had Jane Considine who was rather amusing and somewhat irreverent, but in a very good way, freedom to be able to say what she did was perhaps the key factor in her passion for words and harnessing their goodness. I’d only add she perhaps was very into the underlying education a bit more than the reading for pleasure, although I could tell wholeheartedly she knows the power of books and stories, separating that from the application of teaching roles and models is the thing most needed we totally need to drop the ‘need of reading being a part of education’ and adopt the policy of reading is actually all there is to education, without it there is nothing much really, I accept some don’t and can’t do it and that some or even many have huge abilities in other areas of education and effort ie sport/music, things perhaps also undervalued in the curriculum as it stands. It’s well proven that listening to classical music and hearing voices especially male family ones is vital in stimulating an active brain, so that’s the starting point I’d establish and build on it as much as possible. Teach empathy and love, teach understanding and enrich with trips and experiences, but please never teach prescriptions, children are not ill and only get to be if they are contaminated in certain ways, primarily I’m afraid by Technology and apathy of mobility both physically and cognitively.

My next voice was the absolutely superb Cathy Cassidy, she started with nothing and ended up with a completeness beyond simple words, her insight, compassion and empathy along with her dreams and art and words made the room light up. Her books are superb, her new ones are perhaps a pinnacle so far and need to be adopted as class reads and must reads soon, she also gets the simplest message across, have nothing… go to the library and gain a lot. It’s that simple, it’s safe, supportive and as big as the universe, we are but small parts of it, but like shooting stars we can dazzle if we are allowed to be seen. Sami’s Silver Lining is genuinely a perfect book, so trust me and go read it.

The BBC did a fab session, bar us all having to join in with the dance routine! There work with Premier Reads and adding rap/singing to their fab interactive learning resources was superb, I’d allow this use of IT as it should be an assembly or a PE lesson pretty much every day, that’d work!

The real point was we are more active mentally after just 10-20 mins exercise, the resultant increased blood flow is a stimulant for the brain and you do not get that from artificial exercise like Pokemon hunting or FIFA online.

I was accompanying several school and public librarian friends and taking notes for a few teachers unable to attend, so my seat was worth a lot more than the tenner paid.

Obviously, we couldn’t get to all of the workshops, we did go to the two for secondary as they were my teacher friends’ ones who were away doing other things. We had a superb head of English do as much as he could to burst the stereotype bubble about boys and in a way girls too, stop painting pink and blue really, we are all humans and we all can be wonderful, we can’t always say it the right way, but if we say it and it’s right, that’s the thing, that’s what teachers and examiners need to see and hear. He had plenty of back up in the woeful world of stats, but really it was his clever and erudite and again irreverent view of what we all do or not that was so refreshing, he is quite right, we do not need years of adding war and football to enable boys to read and think, we also do not need unicorns and haircare for girls, what we need is empathetic equality and a greater time for reading more and then discussing and proving what we have learned has value, without ticks, without marks, with a growth and a sustainability and a future in it. Again, I’d think he was only aimed at teachers like Jane, but that was fine. I really would love these sessions to be aimed at all and accentuate the ways that parents and others connected to pupils can become a vital role in enriching and enhancing learning focused on reading for pleasure and adding exercise.

The one thing about the 50s to 70s was this, we did get out more, we did actually read more and although the ways and methods have improved, we perhaps did get a wider educational base for our futures, because we didn’t IT all.

The guy who did Storytelling as a benefit for reading and teaching was superb, really superb, Chris Carter I think. He clearly understood that in telling stories and making sure it was from all perspectives in some ways allowing females to be leads in some stories that have perhaps been more male led, he had a very valid point, activating gender understanding for equality was a fab point. He was excellent in his dissing Marvel and TV/Film for falsifying reality and pointing out we need empathy and better role models. Ones we can identify with, he also dealt with inequality from his own honesty of his own daughter, that was brave and wonderful.

Then a huge thrill, a session with Ashley Booth, I have followed him for ages and hearing him was a huge breath of fresh air, he has implemented so much I have suggested for aeons, he has proved reading works and has enabled twitter to have a use for good, that is a huge tick as I for one don’t get twitter but can see how it can work if there is the right support and following and suchlike, something many users do need to consider, use it as a connection not a showing off. His World Cup to reading was a great thing, his active use of WBD and video blogs and reviews and making use of 10 mins being 9 but still getting real reading out loud done, all superb. His points about not spending on stupid things like paperwork and reading diaries and spending more on real books, getting more children to share reading and allowing impoverished families to actually own more books through being at his school than they arguably ever would buy individually was just amazing.

The QnA was great, informative and amusing and allowing us to gain quick recommendations for what we can and should read and recommend. Ending with support and use libraries by Wayne the lecturer was a fitting encore, next year bring libraries into the equation and it will be an even better rock and read experience.

What would I personally recommend? Use walls more for art and book reviews, easy simple things, so many schools especially secondaries have acres of beige nothingness. Get music and stories working together, music can reach so many so easily and with words and images added can be a potent force, but not Hollywood or Disney only. Get more male role models actually endorse reading, actually do it live and often in front of impressionable eyes and minds. Recommend reading and advocate less screen time, feed the mind and it feeds the body and makes us much healthier and when possible get reading outdoors. Encourage expression through poetry or flash fiction. Stop buying into technology and IT apart from a few worthy uses such as audio and BBC type things.

If you use online, use things that create a platform for others to enjoy, a reviews blog, short stories on twitter and real engagement with author sand illustrators that can be done without travel being a cost and issue. Sign petitions and campaign to keep libraries open and fund them as much as premier football, what a future we’d have then. Ask Management and big business to apply logic and fund more time and access to reading, more is better, the other stuff becomes so much easier if emotional literacy is the first thing. If Amazon would donate even 1% of the spend they receive on books back to the Dept for education and also to Libraries then a lot could be done, they’d still make 98% of what they do make but may just enable a better future, that would mean greater economic and social mobility and that ironically means they may make more too. That’s assuming we’ve gone past the point of being able to walk to local shops and bookshops especially, like libraries they are withering but can be rejuvenated if loved and used.


Some notes

Humanity Empathy Creativity Curiosity Kindness matter most

Pressure is not to star or achieve a grade it’s more to life than that

Foster a love of Reading for Pleasure and create a Culture within your environs

DREAM and make it BIG

Open the gate to Narnia and beyond, reading creates geniuses and writers too

#supermovers @bbc_teach really did show that 19% more brain is enabled after a little strenuous moving and 77% improves the Mood, which enables so much.

@positivteacha we need to rethink and redefine stereotypes and stop judging whether it’s seeing even at 7 that boys are less able or whether it’s merely adjusting views and adopting more empathy.

If SLT are doing audits, think, sit and discuss don’t just type stats. Admit there is a bias and then correct that, Share and learn together, share stories, tell them and don’t be a stereotype! Drop idiotic banter speak too. Evolve the pupil to new horizons of learning, don’t fence them in.


Don’t silence the voices they have over what they say as opposed to how they say it, they may never speak up otherwise. No Gimmicks! We are all Human and we are all flawed.

@Xris32 shared his life and love and told us how stories are made and matter, he was superb.ID acceptance of others, make connections, don’t create a poverty in stories add more stories, tell more too. Visual stories are fine, but be careful of just creating spectacle, a hook helps but don’t just overemphasise action. In real terms don’t push towards Thrones, Walking Dead or Marvel, go for empathy and feeling and character’s and love….

Drop unreal role models, see the issue with negative uses of stories, ie suicide in stories and depression, we need to accentuate positives and embellish reality. Allow sense and sound to be seen and read and heard. Write 200 words as often as you can and read it and share it.

Dialogue drives narrative voice, so maybe read out loud more too. We need emotions, articulation and development and lively positives. Talk and be Open… Reading and Telling #stories matters.

Ashley – Success is reading and making a future even with little money, use what you have and can effectively and just keep reading. Read openings, blurbs, reviews, read after lunch and not at the end of the day, although then as well would be good, start a what next feeling of together in a story.

Use lovereading4kids.co.uk

Focus on some authors and engage with them via twitter and skype, maybe then get them as Patrons of Reading or for termly visits. Look at how to use books to reach into diversity and cultural issues with identification. His pretend a book has just been delivered for the class is a genius idea.

Peer talking about books and characters and stories is a huge thing…amazing.

This creates really positive book influencers it would then work on YouTube as opposed to what is on YouTube!

Don’t do prizes and rewards they falsify effort and sort of stop real progress, this was a major thing.

ALL reading is MORE reading and by ALL. That means SLT and such too!

If there are needed rewards for anything use BOOKS!

Start a list and get to 100 Books you can read… After exams just concentrate on books… then get out to exercise.

A review is just as forever as the physical book, his kids are in real books and are online (allowed).

Create characters, create readers, create happiness together…

If you don’t follow him- do!

Reading Rocks now add some ROLL… onwards ever onwards to more…