Michael Morpurgo will tonight urge parents and teachers to focus on fostering a love of story in children, rather than literacy, at the inaugural BookTrust Annual Lecture in London.
In the lecture, a copy of which was seen by The Bookseller in advance, Morpurgo will say you “cannot force-feed children” with literacy. “All that matters at that early age is that they learn to love it, that they want to listen to more stories, read them, tell them, write them, act them out, sing them, dance them. All the rest will come later, the literacy side of things, which is important, once that seed is sown.”
To encourage a love of story, parents should read a story to their children every night, and teachers should organise a ‘storytime’ session for half an hour at the end of every school day. Libraries, in and out of school, should never be closed, he will add.
He will also say everyone should take some responsibility in society’s failures when it comes to reading and literacy.
“We choose our governments. We are all of us in some way responsible for both the successes and failures of our literacy and our society, for they are, as we know, intimately connected. So when it comes to reading and books, if we have failed to engage and enthuse generations of children… it is mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.”
He will point out it is passing the buck to blame “successive governments who have all indulged in short-termism in their education policies… who corral schools and pressure teachers into teaching literacy fearfully.”
Morpurgo worked for several years as a teacher but feels there are “far too many children I failed”.
“There still exists almost an apartheid system of a kind in this country, between haves and not have-not children, between those who can read… and those who were made to feel very early on that the world of words, of books, of stories, of ideas, was not for them.”
The BookTrust Annual Lecture will take place tonight (21st September) The Guildhall in London.