There was Richard & Judy’s Best Kids Books on television, and it was much as you would expect. A selection of good(ish) books and many eager young readers, who had plenty of opinions on what they were given to read. I made notes, but there’s no need to use them.

After R & J Channel 4 broadcast something called Last Chance Kids. This was an altogether much more interesting programme, despite R & J offering me both Jacqueline Wilson and Philip Pullman. The last chance kids looked much the same as the former reader panels, but of course they can’t read. 20% of Year Six children can’t read, and in the featured school it was more like 25%. Luckily for them, their head teacher decided to change this state of things.

It’s not surprising some children don’t learn to read, when their parents left school illiterate. Thanks to enthusiastic staff and a new reading technique, they finished the school year with all children able to read at least a short sentence. Not much, but the smiles on their faces were really something.

I don’t believe these children could even imagine the pleasure they’d be able to get from books like the ones on the R & J show. I just hope they learn enough to have the opportunity some day to try a proper book like that. One boy had even started dreaming of going to university, to make his Mum proud. I expect she was anyway.

Benjamin Zephaniah had visited the school, and inspired some of the children to recite poetry. For the first time ever the school entered the borough’s poetry recital competition, and one of the participants was a recent non-reader. They won (this was television, after all), but that’s almost beside the point. The skills learnt, and enjoyed, are much more important.

I’ll soon need to keep a large stack of hankies by the television.

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