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Literature Is Fun

October or November - Lecturer Piers Bilston and I are planning a Literature is Fun conference at London Metropolitan University. We're hoping to bring together practitioners and teachers who have any experience of aiding the enjoyment of books in schools. All exams and tests banned. We're looking for people who've worked in any of the arts in relation to books, or found interesting and exciting ways of simply enjoying literature in schools.  We hope that the day itself will be enjoyable with plenty of stories, drama, music, art and performance and people will come away from it, full of ideas of what they can do the very next day with their classes and groups. Look out for a poster and/or leaflet coming round in September. Watch this space for more info.

It occurred to me that in the present context of what's going on in English teaching in primary and secondary schools, this is perhaps the most subversive and dangerous thing to do. Literature and literacy have become a focal point for the maximum amount of anxiety about correctness, standards, grading and league tables. In fact, literature has become the handmaiden to literacy with the result that reading for enjoyment has slipped off the dial. Whenever kids are asked to open a book of fiction or poetry, they know that within seconds they are going to be asked questions about it.

In the past, I think I've been quite partial to the idea that there are some interesting questions to ask of books in education, but in the present context in which every question is part of the programme that leads to SATs, which in turn are part of the school league tables, I've come to the conclusion that literature is being forced into a vicious grading system that works against the impulse of what books, fiction and poetry are for.

With this in mind, I'm hoping that more and more people will want to set up workshops, conferences, festivals, symposia or whatever which are about nothing more nor less than the sheer enjoyment of literature.




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