When is reading for pleasure not reading for pleasure?

This is an interesting question and one that requires a little background.

Over the recent weeks I’ve read some rather disturbing articles about reading for pleasure and how to judge the success of reading for pleasure in a school. As many will know I have revolutionised the idea of showing impact in school libraries and especially the impact of reading, so although it is a self-recommendation that I am a specialist in this area, it comes from a strong proven track record endorsed by Ofsted and many authorities.

Reading for pleasure is a catch all phrase and very much a buzz word at the moment yet some people in the school library world seem to be making it a very murky one indeed. Reading for pleasure should be as easy as it sounds. It is the practice of reading for pleasure, for enjoyment, for satisfaction. To read for pleasure there must be only one ulterior motive. To enjoy.

So, how comes when we talk about young people reading for pleasure does it now become acceptable to not allow this to happen. How have we managed to get so caught up in the idea of impact and evidence that we have dirtied what reading for pleasure is. When I created my highly successful tracking programme the whole idea was to break down any barrier that a child had that stopped them from accessing books. Tracking allowed me to work out this problem and intervention gave me the solution. Further tracking of this success then allowed me the impact. This further tracking looked at attitudes and soft data and cross referenced this to hard data thus giving me my impact. The goal is to create a reader. A reader of pleasure.

Others, it seems, have tried to jump on this bandwagon, trying to show and create their own watered down , misinterpreted version of this and taken the only thing that is holy and sacred and scarred it. They have attempted to show impact by trying to track the goal and not the journey taken. They have made reading for pleasure take on the burden of extra motives. No longer is it to simply enjoy but it is now to create book reports, to answer quizzes, to create fancy trailers etc etc. Reading for pleasure, when it is done like this is impure and sullied and it is through a complete lack of understanding of the delicate nature of what reading for pleasure actually is that it occurs.

The attempt to prove reading for pleasure by undertaking tasks shatters the visible foundations and transforms it into something else. As a profession we need to be more protective of reading for pleasure. We see the daily onslaught that it faces from so many external factors that it is our job to hold this delicate thing precious and to not do anything to dissipate the wisp of smoke that it is. By all means encourage young people to show their enjoyment of books and what they have read in as many ways as you want, but do not make it part of the process. Do not make it an expectation. Do not destroy what it takes so long to create in a careless manner. The ones most likely to want to tell you in these varied ways as possible are the good readers, the successful ones. But these are not the ones we should concern the majority of our time with. It is the weaker, the hard to engage, the ‘refusers’ that we need to lead towards the discovery of reading for pleasure. They are the ones that already have negative views around reading. The ones that have only ever seen reading as a forced activity and here you have further exasperating this by forcing them to read a book that they are then going to have to create, write, talk about after the fact.

Please, for the sake of young people, have a little more respect .




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