The Daily Telegraph reported on Monday that Michael Morpurgo, the former children’s laureate, has called on the government to reinstate ‘story time’ in all schools, saying children must have time in the day for contemplation without being tested. He is concerned that children are introduced to books and reading merely to learn spelling and punctuation rather than to love reading or stories. It is a concern I share, not just with regard to reading but about many aspects of our children’s education, where testing from an early age has become the norm. As a governor of a local fantastic primary school I am thankful for the many teachers who manage to get the test results that satisfy some but who teach primarily because they want children to love learning and discovering life.
I am especially interested by Michael Morpurgo’s comment about the need for children to contemplate. He doesn’t say what they should or may contemplate but I think stories are a wonderful way to contemplate our own place in life, our dreams and desires, our hopes and our fears. I think children often do this quite naturally when given space and time to do so, unhampered as they are by many of the pressures of life or other experiences.
As Advent approaches I find myself, as I do each year, reading once again the oh-so familiar story of the nativity, remembering that it is part of a bigger story of God’s love for the world and all people, and encouraging people to ponder their place in that story. Perhaps our carol services and crib services should be viewed as seasonal ‘story times’ which give people the chance to contemplate – to contemplate the story and their own story, their hopes and fears, or dreams and desires and their place in life and in that big story of God and the people he loves.
by the Revd Rachel Rosborough, Rector of Bourton-on-the-Water, Clapton and the Rissingtons.