Monday, December 26, 2005

Reading as a Subersive Activity
Reading Connects is a National Reading Campaign funded by the Department for Education & Science - and you can now download the December issue of Celebrating Reading Connects which includes some good background information about promoting and supporting reading skills. Its a beautifully produced and well-written 32 page magazine but... I can't help but think that there is something missing. Certainly it presses all the right buttons in its advocacy of reading - but it lacks the excitement that comes with learning to read - not the learning to read which comes from parents, or from school, but the excitement that comes with reading for yourself, when you first begin to devour every single printed word you come across - the back of the rice crispies box, comics, and books that are far too old for your school-determined reading age. If you've read Barry Hines' book A Kestrel for a Knave (made into the film Kes by Ken Loach), you will recall how Billy (who could hardly read) suddenly became so desperate to lay his hands on a book about training kestrels that he stole it from the library, and how he taught himself how to rear and train a young bird from that stolen book. Billy's desire to read, to educate himself developed in opposition to a schooling system that labelled him as too thick to read, a library system that wouldn't let him borrow the book without a ticket, and a shop that wouldn't let him have a book without payment. That is the real power of reading - that it always threatens to break out from its institutional limits and change the world.