Review of ​the UKLA National Conference 2017

Amy Standen, a PGCE student from the University of Cambridge, gives her account of the recent UKLA National Conference all about Finding and Sharing Reading for Pleasure.



In collaboration with the Open University, the UKLA (United Kingdom Literary Association) held their annual National Conference 2017 at the Faculty of Education, Cambridge, on a blustery Saturday in March. Entitled Finding and sharing pleasure in reading, the schedule promised a day full of inspirational workshops and lectures, designed to develop knowledge of children’s literature and create a pedagogy to support young readers and promote reading for pleasure. Not only was the conference full of engaging sessions, the exciting launch of the new Open University Reading for Pleasure website was introduced; designed to share research-informed classroom practice and aid teachers in their journey towards a reading for pleasure foundation in the classroom.

The joint opening keynote speech from Teresa Cremin, The Open University, and Mary Anne Wolpert, The University of Cambridge, highlighted the research behind reading for pleasure, specifically in building communities of readers both inside and outside the classroom. Through a poignant reading of A Cultivated Wolf by Becky Bloom and Pascal Biet, they managed to clearly illuminate the effect of actively participating in reading communities, on the social, emotional and cognitive development of an individual.

Following this came the opportunity for delegates to partake in a selection of workshops lead by specialists in research and in practice. These workshops provided insight into becoming reading teachers, building reading communities through deep book blether, discovering children’s reading interests and inspiring writing and building home school reading communities. The workshops wove together the research and practice elements in a friendly environment which welcomed discussion and sparked many imaginations in ways to transfer ideas into individual classrooms.

A librarian keynote address was given by Marilyn Brocklehurst, Norfolk Children’s Book Centre, who has the incredible job of reading all the children’s books published each year, and running an independent bookshop. The theme was ‘widening your knowledge of children’s literature’, and resulted in many frantically trying to scribble down names of books that came rolling from Marilyn’s extensive knowledge. She highlighted the importance of knowing what children are reading so as their teacher you can recommend books, discuss differences in opinion which will over time create communities of readers.

The grand finale came in the form of a keynote speech from children’s author and illustrator Alexis Deacon; known for his powerful and captivating picture books including Beegu and Slow Loris. Capturing the audience with a mesmerising reading of I am Henry Finch, before launching into a journey through the language of pictures and the art of illustration, Deacon went on to share his opinion of the power of books to address current issues and, in a call to arms, delivered the importance of inspiring change and progress in classrooms. He left the room buzzing with hope and each individual feeling eager to play their part, finishing the conference with passion and energy.

As a trainee teacher the conference was invaluable; the insight into the research and the expertise shared by the professional colleagues in attendance will allow me to provide children with such a rich environment for reading. I would like to thank all involved in the organising and smooth running of such an event, the keynote speakers and everyone who came along to make it such a memorable day. After all, not much beats talking about books all day!

Amy Standen

PGCE trainee, University of Cambridge, 2017

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