Frank Cottrell Boyce says too much analysis of books puts children and young people off reading

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Frank Cottrell Boyce, author of Millions

Like Rosemary Sutcliff, Frank Cottrell Boyce was awarded the Carnegie medal—for his children’s book, Millions. Like Rosemary, he believes passionately in reading for the sake of reading. I suspect also that, like Rosemary, he is passionate about being read to.

An article in the Guardian newspaper on Friday last quotes him from a lecture in which he argues that children are too often asked to analyse the text of a book or respond to a story with their own story, thus “polluting the whole reading experience”.

I visit many schools. I see amazing, creative work being done – especially in primary schools. But I have a nagging fear that in encouraging literacy we are killing the pleasure of reading…

There’s a humbling, Homeric magic in the sight of a crowd of children sitting down waiting to listen to your story…

Time and time again I come across teachers reading a story and then asking immediately for some kind of feedback. A piece of ‘creative writing’ ‘inspired by’ the story. Some opinions about character and wow words. Something to show the parents or the school inspectors. It pollutes the reading experience by bringing something transactional in to play. It destroys pleasure.

Pleasure in reading is deeply important. Pleasure is a profound and potent form of attention, a kind of slow thinking.When I offer you a story I don’t want you to come back to me with a description of how I did it. I don’t think of my reader as a trainee writer. I’m hoping that it stays in your mind and comes out in different ways I could never have predicted – as an engineering idea, as a cake, as a hug that you give your dad.

We think of reading as a solitary activity but some of my most important reading experiences were very much shared.

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