A little more from the paper produced by me for and with Literature Wales. The full paper will soon be published on Literature Wales web-site.
“A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men” —Willy Wonka, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl
Writing and reading are not chores. They are great pleasures in life. The main reason we read and continue reading is because it brings us joy. If children do not have experiences of reading, which bring pleasure and success, then that feeling continues throughout life. This is a significant responsibility carried by teachers. According to surveys (e.g. Jacobs Foundation, 2016), our British children and young people are among the unhappiest in Europe, and though there will be complex reasons for that, several studies have shown a correlation between happiness and reading. Australian writer, Ceridwen Dovey states:
“Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers.”
This is important and corroborates my research, which found that studying poetry actually made adolescent students happier. As one of my students put it: “It makes me happy to be creative”.
It is the right of a child to have access to reading, and as Margaret Meek pointed out: “The great secrets of reading lie in imaginative literature”. The pleasures of reading really creative and innovative works bring happiness, but also greater understanding of how language works. Pullman comments that:
“The writer Samuel Johnson apparently didn’t say this, but someone did, and it remains true: ‘The true aim of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it’ ”
Recent research conducted by the Reading Agency has revealed that reading for pleasure can increase our empathy, improve relationships, reduce depression, and improve wellbeing. It is this power that makes reading dynamic, and able to educate a person in the fullest way. For reading extends our knowledge and awareness of the play that goes on between what is said and what is meant. It enables us to see the nuances and subtleties at work in the hands of a great writer. It could be helpful to think about what we would expect pupils to be able to do after a process of learning and teaching. M. Ratcliffe has written about the psychological importance of narrative for our well-being:
“insofar as a narrative is shared by two parties, it comprises a kind of bridge between them that aids interpretation. Recognition of difference is thus embellished with a positive
phenomenological appreciation of experience” —M. Ratcliffe
This is important to the well-being and safety of our children.