May 13, 2016

Reading and Loving

Reading and Loving cover_240Routledge and Kegan Paul: London, 1977 / photo: ©John Walmsley

For a work of art or of education is made where the artist and the audience meet; each draws the other halfway, and in that meeting each remembers, each therefore imagines, and that is where the book, the play, the lesson, or whatever it may be, blazes into life… So how can children who are not allowed to build on their own experience – not allowed, so to speak, to remember – ever imagine? LB

Designed for everyone who delights in babies and children, in talking and listening, reading and writing, the book gives detailed pictures of actual children heard and observed, which can be paralleled by personal observations made by readers. Leila Berg traces the varied ways babies learn to communicate, and discusses the place of books in the lives of different groups in the community. She examines the types of books used in school, and demonstrates that, in many cases, books themselves provide the major inhibition to the development of reading through their stilted and often formalistic vocabulary, and their rejection of real children.

Leila Berg’s aim is that all children’s first experience of reading should be a loving and sensuous one, so that they can come to discover the power of books for themselves…..Written in a clear and readable style, this is an essential book for all parents and teachers who wish their children to learn to read with pleasure.

People often talk as though the damage to the child is done only by unknowing parents or by the deprived environment, all of which the school, they say, tries to make good again. On the contrary, the school frequently (sometimes in their own view benignly) delivers the final crushing blow, because the conformist school is the main tool of the culture that has deprived, manipulated, restricted and de-validated him for five years. As for those militants who angrily protest at the term “culturally deprived”, I think they are mistaken too; it seems to me a fairly accurate term since the school system is depriving such children of their culture, undermining them under cover of educating them, subduing them by taking away from them the language in which they express emotion, excitement, identity, and power. Scottish Highlanders, Welshmen… all those whose children have been forced by new law to go to English schools, where they were forbidden to speak their own language and the language of their family and punished if they did, by people who did not belong to the district but ruled in it, know the situation very well. LB

Note: Reading and Loving was republished by Routledge Library Editions in May 2019, and is available in hard back, paperback, and ebook forms. This edition is unfortunately rather expensive in our opinion. Leila would have been disgusted about this as she wanted parents and teachers to have easy direct access to the ideas and stories she was sharing. You can buy the new edition here.