“I visit many schools,” he will say in the lecture. “I see amazing, creative work being done – especially in primary schools. But I have a nagging fear that in encouraging literacy we are killing the pleasure of reading.”
Cottrell Boyce recounts one experience when he read aloud in a school. “There’s a humbling, Homeric magic in the sight of a crowd of children sitting down waiting to listen to your story.”
After he read his story, he recalls, a young, newly qualified teacher addressed the children. “She said: ‘We’re going to use our listening skills to try and spot his wow words and his connectives so that we can appreciate how he builds the story.’
“Imagine going on a date with her. ‘We’re going to have some proteins. Some carbs – not too many – and conversation. If you make me laugh, that’s a physical reaction so it puts you on the erotic spectrum and you might get lucky.’”
Cottrell Boyce will say that he gets letters from year six children all the time asking the same questions of him.
“Time and time again I come across teachers reading a story and then asking immediately for some kind of feedback. A piece of ‘creative writing’ ‘inspired by’ the story. Some opinions about character and wow words. Something to show the parents or the school inspectors.
“It pollutes the reading experience by bringing something transactional in to play. It destroys pleasure.”