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Michael Morpurgo calls for more time for 'great stories'

Oxford University Press research reveals over half of primary school teachers lack time for books in the classroom

Posted by Stephanie Broad | June 16, 2016 | Teaching

Oxford University Press (OUP) announced today the findings of their recent educational research into ‘Reading for Pleasure’ in UK primary schools.

The survey, carried out by OUP as part of its ongoing research programme, reveals that more than half of the 349 UK primary school teachers surveyed (56%) say that they don’t have enough time to share and talk about books in the classroom, and that more than a third (36%) believe that having more time to dedicate to reading and to books would make the biggest difference to promoting a love of reading in their school.

OUP research also demonstrates the importance that teachers place on classic stories. Ninety-three per cent of teachers surveyed agreed that having access to classic stories was vital to develop a love of reading. Refreshingly, many teachers were inspired themselves by these stories as a child and now use them to teach the next generation of school children with Roald Dahl and fairy tales demonstrating particular appeal.

Despite almost all teachers (92%) believing that reading for pleasure is essential for a pupil’s future success, 63% said that they thought only half or fewer of their pupils read for pleasure outside of class time. The research also showed that for many current teachers it was their own childhood teacher who inspired their love of reading – highlighting the importance of reading for pleasure in the classroom.

Michael Morpurgo, former Children’s Laureate and author of War Horse, says: “For many children it is their teacher who will be the first to try to engage children with stories. The best of them – and there are many - tell the stories they love, tell them with a passion. However, we have to make this possible; we need to give them the time they need to enjoy stories, poetry and literature - particularly in the early years.”

Jane Harley, Strategy Director, UK Education at OUP, added: “This research shows that teachers are concerned about children missing out on the chance to be inspired by reading in the classroom. There is clear evidence that the primary school years are crucial for children, whatever their social or cultural background to develop their love of reading. It is vital that teachers are able to dedicate the time to helping their pupils engage with stories in the classroom and to create more space for quality conversations about books.”

As part of its commitment to developing the reading experience for all children in the classroom, OUP has published Greatest Stories - a series of 35 books in OUP’s TreeTops series in May 2016; a collection that captures European and worldwide literary heritage with classic stories, handpicked by Michael Morpurgo and retold by well-known children’s authors including Gillian Cross and Anne Fine.

Advisor for the Greatest Stories series, Professor Kim Reynolds from Newcastle University, says: “It’s time to reclaim some of these great stories and fairy tales that had been put to the back of the school library. We have called this series ‘The Greatest Stories’ because they are of great importance to a child’s ability to develop and navigate the world. These are stories that children need to know. They are cultural reference points that bind generations.”`

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