Reading and Literacy

Why is everyone talking about empathy?

Have you noticed the word Empathy being used more often, recently? I have, but then I’ve been following EmpathyLabUK for the last year or so.

Even so, Empathy seems to be everywhere… or not. which is the problem.

In the UK, we seem to have become more polarised into smaller and smaller interest groups, isolating ourselves in our echo chambers of FaceBook and Twitter, seemingly unable to understand, or want to understand other people’s views and lives.

I think it was the visceral hatred of immigrants that erupted following the Brexit Referendum that was the wake-up call. The internet and our new-found limitless choice has not necessarily made us more selfish, but it has removed from us the need to think of others.

Children, alone on the internet in their bedrooms, are ripe for exploitation. Flicking from one thing to another, they are growing up on a diet of junk food.

I look at my video statistics. I know how kids flit from video to video, taking in the minimum. I know, I flit myself. Put a twenty second intro onto your YouTube video, and I’ve moved on after 8 seconds – never mind the quality of your content.

eBooks have not had an impact on children’s reading. Animated books do not teach how to read.

But research done by Empathy Lab has shown that not only can reading improve empathy, by learning abut other people’s lives and thought processes, that sense of empathy with a character or situation actually improves reading skills and levels. A win win situation!

Of course, those of us who read for pleasure know all this instinctively. Sustained reading not of a page of text, but a whole book – a work of deep thought, care and construction – is the best, and probably the only way to enter someone else’s mind and dwell there for a while . To feel their pain and joy, to understand their culture, to understand their position in the world relative to yours, to understand their grievances as well as their lucid or blinkered ideas or their enlightening or unacceptable attitudes. Knowledge is power and understanding how others think gives us knowledge of the world and confidence navigating our way through it.

And this all comes from reading for pleasure. The best, and only way to really improve reading skills. Like any skill it takes time and practice. Reading can’t be improved by learning grammar, it can only be improved by putting in the hours, lazing around on the sofa reading an inspiring, exciting, infuriating, magical, fantastical, horrifying, adventurous, heartbreaking but ultimately satisfying book – all the way through, from cover to cover – not a page from which we ask, “What do you think the author meant?” You won’t ever know, unless you read all the words either side of that page.


So reading skills improve and empathy improves, leading to better friendships and calmness in class. Go and look for yourself at EmpathyLabUK see what it’s all about.

No wonder everyone is talking about Empathy.

Empathy Day is on Tuesday 13th June 2017 – you can empathise with me on the day- waiting for the man to come and dig a tree stump out of a flowerbed


Visiting Castles & Eating Fish and Chips

Wales is a land full of Castles. many were built by the English King Edward I to keep the Welsh under control. Most are now in ruins, but visiting them in the beautiful Welsdh country side is always a great day out. Co to the Cadw website to learn more about Castles in Wales

I went to Castel y Beer, near Talyllyn then up to Criccieth, stopping along the way to have a closer look at the Trawsfynedd Magnox Nuclear power station that used to appear in my nightmares!

Find out all about Fish and chips too – the absolute most British food you can get – yes even more that tea!

books · Reading and Literacy · School & Library Visits

Opening the new library at Mowmacre Hill School, Leicester

open-library-2 open-LibraryI was so pleased when Hope Toms-Fitzgerald, the Reading Champion at Mowmacre Hill Primary School near Leicester, asked if I would come and visit the school for the day and open the new library. Ans so I did, a couple of weeks ago. Where has the time gone?

Hope and her army of helpers have been working away at this wonderful project for over two years, raising funds and turning a cold, jumbled storeroom into a warm, friendly and inviting library for the children of the school.

Hope truly is a Reading Champion! The only way to learn to read is to read. Knowing all the ins and outs of grammar may score you marks on some Ofsted scoresheet, but true literacy comes from the process of actually reading a lot of text. Books are still the dest delivery vehicle for that process.

The way to engage new (and reluctant) readers is to give them a choice of wonderful and engaging books that will get their attention and turn them into readers. There is nothing like a school library for raising reading levels. Not grammar testing, not iPads, not websites, just a plain, good old-fashioned library full of books that make you want to read, that entertain, thrill, educate and maybe even make you cry.

To become truly literate, the words need to be screwed down on the page, not dancing around and singing to you. To become truly literate, you need to witness language being used at its best, to see how words strung together evoke mood, character, place and emotion as well as providing information. Reading is not an exercise in syntax. The very best writing tends to break the rules of grammar anyway.

So well done Hope and well done Mowmacre Hill. It was a pleasure to visit and an honour to cut the ribbon and declare the library open for business!

Pictures from Mowmacre Hill – thanks!