Mr Magnolia met the literacy hour: did he survive?
In the chapter I wrote for the first edition of The Literate Classroom (Graham in Goodwin, 1999), I debated whether children’s books would survive the ‘stop and analyse’ approaches advocated by the NLS (National Literacy Strategy). I came to the conclusion that, on the whole, certain books might just survive. I suggested that books that involved a focus on language for its own sake (such as Quentin Blake’s Mr Magnolia which has a joyous text woven round two dozen or so rhymes for the word ‘boot’) might not be too adversely affected but I voiced concern for books where more serious involvement with the story develops. Well, the years have passed and my sad conclusion is that the literacy hour was about many things but it was not about enjoying a story and thus it was not about making readers. Not even Mr Magnolia survives the dissecting that the literacy hour subjects him to and there is no great likelihood that children will remember their experience of the book with any pleasure. The only way that the integrity of books is respected in the classroom is if the teacher retains story-time, that is, a period when children are taken, without let or hindrance, by a fluent reader (or story-teller), into the secondary world of the book.