Soul food

Michael Rosen and Hannah Solemani

Photo: James Royall

Monday 6th October, 2008 | Posted by Caroline Graty

Jamie Oliver tried to do it for good food. Now Michael Rosen, poet, author and Children’s Laureate, wants to do it for good books. He’s been making a documentary for BBC4 to see if it’s possible to get a whole school into reading.

Rosen talked passionately at the recent Connecting Conversations event, talking to psychoanalyst Hannah Solemani about the importance of reading in children’s education, and his concern about the lack of encouragement they currently receive in schools to read. The government has put in place a compulsory framework focusing on to teaching kids how to read, but, he says incredulously, ‘when it comes to… the reading of books widely and often for pleasure for every single child, they say ‘it’s not our problem’.’

Why is it so important to get children reading? Rosen says ‘I would argue that it actually opens doors to a particular way of thinking… if you read widely and often it gives you easier access to discursive thought, various kinds of complex thought about time and place, a notion of a multiplicity of viewpoint.’ Kids who can develop this kind of thought, he says, ‘find the rest of school a cinch.’

Rosen also described his creative process, likening his thoughts to ping-pong balls bouncing in his head, waiting to be released and shaped by language. ‘When it gets on to the page there’s a sort of coolness about it because you look at the thing… and you’ve objectified, you’ve literally made it into material… so you can sit back and look at yourself.’ He likens it to looking into double mirrors. ‘That’s the feeling I have about a piece of writing, I am now looking at myself at the angle that I couldn’t look at myself from before. That I can describe as therapeutic, I could describe it as helpful, I could describe it as fascinating, I make discoveries.’

You can listen to the conversation, which includes Rosen reading some of his wonderful poems, on the events page.

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