Friday, October 04, 2013

The pleasure principle

Good quality research data on reading for pleasure is always a useful complement to the rhetoric on the topic. So it's great to see the clear message that 'children who read for pleasure are likely to do significantly better at school than their peers' (who presumably don't). This comes from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies report here. If you delve into the report you see that the key influence is defined in rather broader terms - 'home reading culture' and 'leisure reading' are described in some detail and these are to my mind rather more sophisticated concepts. However, put the headlines alongside this and you might quickly get the picture that print culture is doomed and with it the written word. I don't actually think is the case - there's probably more reading and writing going on with everyday uses of technology than ever before in history, and there are also more possibilities for narrative pleasure. But digital media are an 'and' not an 'or'. Children and young people simply have far more textual choices than ever before. We know about the claims made about bedtime stories - but rather than simply accepting this as a privileged ritual (or a ritual of the privileged), we need to understand more about what's going on. I'd put my money on the shared endeavour of skilled and apprentice meaning-makers making sense of text together. If this is accurate then the benefits could extend to any media, unlocking a wider palette of pleasures.

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