Magazine article Times Higher Education


Magazine article Times Higher Education


Article excerpt

Michael Rosen is an award-winning children's author and poet and former British Children's Laureate. In November last year he was appointed professor of children's literature at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is currently developing a new practical and theoretical MA in children's literature starting in September. His latest book is Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story

Where and when were you born?

I was born in Harrow on 7 May 1946.

How has this shaped you?

I am very much a child of the London suburbs. All my schooling took place in Wealdstone, Pinner, Harrow Weald and Watford. The suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s were edgy, nervy places, full of conflicts - personal, social, cultural, educational and political. I liked it.

Describe your new job in 140 characters.

Lucky sod is made welcome to be prof of a subject he has spent his whole life immersed in.

How valuable is children's literature to the literary canon?

Most adult readers were made into the readers they are by the "repertoire" of reading they did as children. The link, then, between children's literature and adult literature is not so much via the writers as through the reading habits of the readers. That said, there are various key children's literature texts that have informed adult writing - most notably perhaps, the Alice books; although I would guess that much of the readership of crime fiction was inducted into the genre through Enid Blyton.

What's your definitive work of children's literature?

Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book (1744). This is the world's first collection of what we now call nursery rhymes and it's the first children's book that has absolutely no moralistic or didactic purpose. The nursery rhyme canon is a powerful set of tiny stories giving us many tales of unhappy happenstance, oddity and foolishness and this little book was instrumental in giving us all this pleasure.

What one thing is holding back children's education most in this country?

The system of high stakes testing, exams and league tables. This creates and enforces a curriculum, fosters massive anxiety around learning, guarantees failure to the majority and puts schools, teachers and pupils into competition with each other.

Have you had a eureka moment?

Most recently, it's to discover that the problem in education is not Michael Gove, but that Parliament has ceded so much power to the office of Secretary of State for Education. Anyone who now takes on that job thinks that he or she has the wisdom to know what's best for children, teachers and parents. This is both very undemocratic and very odd. …

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