Children reading

Once upon a time...reading and writing began

The future of children’s reading and writing beyond today’s literary favourites such as Harry Potter and Tracey Beaker will be explored on Wednesday 27 October at the University of Exeter. 

It is part of a free event to launch Exeter’s first festival of children’s literature, ‘EXEtreme Imagination’ in November and will involve a panel of experts with questions from the audience to ensure a lively debate.

At a time of great concern about children’s reading and writing this is an important event at which members of the public can share and contribute to a discussion led by key figures in the field. The debate is part of the University’s Arts and Culture Strategy and commitment to encouraging a wide range of events and activities in collaboration with arts organisations throughout the South West region.

Author and children’s editor of The Guardian, Julia Eccleshare is on the panel and is joined by Samantha Shipman from The Reader Organisation in Liverpool which encourages people to read. Professor Debra Myhill, Education expert at the University of Exeter will share her extensive knowledge of teaching and research on reading and writing. Head Girl from St James School, Ellie Brundrett – also a member of the EXEtreme Imagination Youth Steering Group – will be on a panel to represent young people’s perspectives. The panel will be chaired by Sara Davies, an executive producer for the BBC.

In this digital age, according to Professor Myhill children are actually reading much more than they ever have, but the question is, what are they reading? She commented, “Is it a diet of text messages, gaming instructions and webscreens, or do young people still know the pleasure of curling up with a book?”

Professor Helen Taylor, the University of Exeter’s Arts and Culture Development Fellow said, “Is there a crisis around literacy and the future of books? Conservative Minister Michael Gove thinks so. He has suggested a national reading list for all children, for which he’s been much criticised. Educationists, parents, teachers and all of us who care about future generations are committed to the importance of reading and writing – and yet we’re aware that children now spend more time in front of screens and Facebook than books.”

She added, “This debate, opening our EXEtreme Imagination Festival season, will air concerns and discuss the future of children’s reading, publishing and general literacy.”

The event is on the University’s Streatham Campus, Xfi Building on Wednesday 27 October, 6.30-7.45 pm, starting with complimentary tea, coffee and cakes reception at 6pm. It is free of charge, however all guests must register in advance with Peter Hodges on 01392 722321 or at

Date: 23 October 2010

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