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Richard Dimbleby Lecture

Michael MorpurgoIt’s not often that I watch a vast amount of TV – though I do have regular favourites, as most people would.  But on Monday night I was fascinated to see Jo Brand investigating crying – and to some extent I side with her – it’s a private activity and not for public consumption, often the result of reading something particularly moving, and done in the privacy of a home.  So it was with some surprise I found myself moved to tears when listening to Michael Morpurgo in the BBC Richard Dimbleby Lecture.  (I had to catch it on iPlayer as I couldn’t see it when it was broadcast.)

Michael is a consummate story teller – and his reflections on Yarl’s Wood detention centre and the children previously incarcerated there was gut wrenching in its immediacy.  This was developed in his comments on his work for Save the Children – if you haven’t had chance to catch his speech it will be available for 5 more days…

I was also particularly enrapt by his description of the Russian school librarian who was deemed a hero in his own country as he had saved his school library books from a fire – but on the whole our role is ‘unfamous’ and ‘unglamorous’ because we are ‘only inspiring children to read’.  Michael urges educators to go back to the child, and ‘allow the spark of a child’s genius to shine’.  He urged us to break free of the shackles of a narrow curriculum and make all the cultural and life experience activities ‘a right for every child not just an added extra’.  ‘Children are our seed corn and we must give them our help’, and a part of that was putting aside a part of the day for reading aloud, just for the pleasure of it, no tests, no questions, just for the experience.  Because it is these experiences that will prepare children for the decisions they take in everyday life – whether to throw a stone, whether to carry a knife to school, whether to bully another child – by reading we may reduce ‘the collateral damage to young  lives’.  By the end of the lecture I was cheering!  Thank you Michael for such an impassioned speech, and for championing the librarian, this helps reinvigorate our own efforts – on a less public but no less important stage.

Tricia Adams.

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