In Teacher's Good Books; Group Therapy: Librarian Jean Ewart with Some of the Children Who Have Found Reading Is Fun

Article excerpt

Byline: Maggie Mallon

THEY have long been a way for literature-loving grown-ups to make newfriends while indulging their passion for the printed word. But now book groupsare finding a new generation of enthusiasts.

Children as young as eight are joining the junior book discussion clubs, whichexperts hope will boost their interest in reading and help make it a 'cooler'pastime.

Concern is growing over tumbling literacy standards, with Scottish educationchiefs now allowing some pupils who struggle to read and write properly to usecomputer spell-checkers in official exams.

The new wave of children's book groups means Scots youngsters can put downtheir computer games to chat about favourite writers over juice and biscuits.

The trend has taken off in libraries nationwide, with children encouraged totalk about books and new writers.

Margaret Bell, vice-chair of the UK Federation of Children's Book Groups, said:'Reading can be a solitary activity which puts some kids off.

'But there is plenty of evidence to show that reading and talking about booksin a social situation gets young people to read.' The book groups, calledChatter Books, are now offered in most Scottish libraries and are so successfulthat groups for older children are also springing up.

The children also play bookrelated games and take part in arts and craftsactivities during hour- long sessions. And writers such as Julia Donaldson,author of The Gruffalo, have visited in the past to answer questions and meetfans.

In Craigneuk, Lanarkshire, one book group plays a game modelled on the BigBrother TV reality show with library supervisor Jean Ewart.

They each choose to be a fictional character and talk about how they would geton if they lived together, before voting each other out. The children pretendto be figures such as Horrid Henry, Tinkerbell and Buffy the Vampire Slayer andsay why they are voting for characters to leave the house. …