Scroll Top

Bring back the magic: Rekindling the joy of reading in classrooms

“The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading.”

Mem Fox

Visiting schools and working in classrooms with incredible teachers is a privilege. However, there’s a growing concern that tugs at my heartstrings. When teachers talk about their ‘literacy sessions,’ the joy and excitement have vanished, replaced by frustration, pain, and the pressure of teaching the new curriculum. The emphasis on scripts, decodable readers, graphemes, phonemes, and strict schedules has extinguished the simple delight of reading. The magic of a book, read purely for the joy it brings, seems lost. Teachers long to read stories to their students, to see their eyes light up with wonder, but they sigh and say, “There’s not enough time.”

Do you remember the moments just before a break when your teacher would pull out a shared novel? Those precious minutes were filled with anticipation and joy. For me, it was Adventures of the Wishing Chair, by Enid Blyton, read by the wonderful Mrs Wood, my Year 6 teacher. Those stories transported us to magical worlds and created shared memories that still warm my heart.

I was fortunate to grow up in a family of readers. My mother owned a bookshop for many years, and I spent countless hours surrounded by books. When my first child, Erik, was born, my mum would babysit him in the back of the shop. Recently, I asked him about one of his earliest memories. With a smile, he said, “The smell of a new box of books being opened.” He loved his time in the shop and the joy that came from reading. I read to my boys constantly, and we bonded over stories, learning vocabulary, language, humour, and the author’s purpose, not because it was part of a curriculum, but because we loved it.

I vividly remember a Year 5/6 class I taught; we were reading The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, by John Boyne. Due to the content, I had to get special permission to read it. We followed the book with an excursion to the Sydney Jewish Museum, where we were privileged to hear Eddie Jaku, a holocaust survivor, speak about his life experiences. Back in the classroom, as we reached the last chapter, and I thumbed open the pages, a student asked, “Wait, miss, can I put a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door and lock it so we won’t get interrupted?” The shared preservation of that story remains one of my most cherished memories. I have no doubt it is an easy memory for my students to recall.

Reading connects us and ignites our imaginations. It allows us to understand and experience the lives of others. As we navigate the complexities of new curriculums and educational demands, let’s not forget the power of a good story.

Let’s make time for the joy of reading, for the sake of our children and the emotional sparks that light the fire of literacy.

Check out other articles Sheila has written here.