Geraldine McCaughrean is one of today’s most successful and highly regarded children’s authors. A multi-award-winning author who is much loved by all those who read her books, she recently spoke about her long and prestigious career at an event organised in partnership with Just Imagine and UKLA.
We got the chance to speak with her and to find out more about her views on literacy education.
1. Do you think promoting reading for pleasure is primarily the role of home or school?
School enters the fight late on in the war. If children don’t see their parents read, they won’t see the point themselves. If they haven’t already become story-addicts, they won’t feel the craving. If they’ve got all their entertainment off a screen, they’ll always prefer their telephones and screens to the human voice or a bunch of inanimate pages.
Similarly, if their teacher doesn’t read for pleasure, she won’t spark any desire in her flock. So whereas school has an absolute and vital duty to equip children with the ability to read and write, it is likely to be either the parents or a single inspirational adult who leaves the indelible stain of their fingerprints on every page that child ever reads with pleasure.
2. How would you encourage a reluctant reader to read?
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s impossible to persuade someone to read who does not want to, any more than you can persuade that person to like sloths or Vera Lynn.
Suggesting that reading will equip you with invaluable tools for life is like saying greens are good for you: a real turn-off. They need a more selfish motive than ‘self-improvement’.
Marinade in story for two to three years. Store in a book-lined container. Bring to the boil, stirring continually with audiotapes, anecdotes, and a mere suggestion of wicked pleasure. Serve up books of their own choosing (not classics loved by an earlier generation).
3. What is the most valuable advice you’ve been given on your own writing journey?
Cut to the chase. Show don’t tell. If in doubt, cut it out. Nulla dies sine linea (Not a day without a line.) If you want to get rich, write the same book over and over again; if you want to have fun, never write the same book twice. Though I’ve never had the heart to kill my darlings, I’m sure that’s good advice, too.
This FREE professional development event took place in Canterbury on Wednesday 20 February and was open to teachers, student teachers, governors, parents and higher education professionals.
UKLA frequently organises events with leading authors and illustrators. To make sure you never miss an exciting opportunity to learn from the best, join UKLA today.