I remember clearly teaching children to read back in 1980 when I started my career. In those days we were very reliant on reading schemes that gradually built vocabulary over time giving confidence to children to develop their skills. The reading scheme dominated the classroom and left little opportunity to look at or enjoy other books. In fact, it might be hard to believe, but there were only two ‘real books’ in my classroom when I started. The children did learn to read and went on to achieve good academic results, but did it inspire them to want to read? Probably not.

Every day I would call over a child to read to me, usually pulling them away from a more exciting and interesting task, and we would sit down to find out what Jennifer Yellow Hat had been doing or what had happened to Roger Red Hat and Billy Blue Hat – yes really that was what they were called! The Village with Three Corners was never going to excite the imagination of the average five-year-old, so it came to no surprise to me when one day a small boy complained “Do I have to? Reading is boring!”  No surprise, but a bit of a wakeup call nevertheless – how could reading be boring? That’s like saying travel is boring, surely it depends on where you go and what you do on whether or not it’s boring.  Well, I clearly wasn’t taking them anywhere exciting – and it was then and there that I made up my mind to bombard them with beautiful, interesting, exciting books that made them want to pick them up and read. Trips to jumble sales, libraries and car boot sales followed and soon everything we did came from and led to stories and books – we built a curriculum around their interests, enthusiasm and excitement.  No child in my class was ever going to say reading was boring again!

And guess what – they thrived, the results were fantastic - children wanted to learn to read so much they would romp through the reading scheme books, because even at that age they knew that this meant they could get to the good books quicker! I will never forget the day a child came to me with ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ and proudly announced he could read it and he did – every word.

Reading has a profound impact on children’s academic success. Those that can read well are better able to access the curriculum, make more progress and achieve better outcomes. But that is only part of the picture, children that learn to love reading develop their creative skills and their imagination through books and they are able to access wonderful places and escape to magical lands – quite simply reading should be a joy.  So why not join in Achievement for All’s 200 Million Minutes Reading Challenge, use the time to read and inspire children to want to read and become avid readers as they grow. Take the time to just spread the joy and read as much and as often as you can to your children, so that they get hooked for life – it could be the most important gift you give them.

Once a child asked me “what will happen when I’ve read all the books there are?” – trust me you won’t run out!

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Between Thursday 7th March (World Book Day) and Tuesday 2nd April 2019 (Children’s Book Day) Achievement for All will be encouraging early years settings, schools, colleges, families, libraries, community groups, businesses and organisations from across the world to come together and collectively read for 200 million minutes, a never before-reached target!

Participating in the challenge is free and great prizes will be awarded to those who achieve the highest average number of minutes per child or young person.

If you would like to take part in Achievement for All’s 200 Million Minutes Reading Challenge, register now at www.200millionminutes.org