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Public encouraged to share memories of reading novels in class

Members of the public are being encouraged to share their memories of reading in class at school during an event in Norwich next week.

The event on Thursday, May 4, is part of a research project called ‘Literature’s Lasting Impression’. Led by an academic at the University of East Anglia (UEA), it is looking at memories and experiences of shared novel reading in schools, universities and reading groups.

The free drop-in event will include short readings from popular school novels, as well as the chance to browse books used in schools across the decades and to find out what the research has discovered so far.

Project leader Dr John Gordon, from UEA’s School of Education and Lifelong Learning, is inviting the public share their memories of reading in school during the event, which takes place from 10.30am – 2.30pm in the Atrium at The Forum. Dr Gordon is hoping to film short vox pop interviews with participants to use in his research.

People will also be asked to take part in a survey about their most memorable experience of reading a novel together in class, what set texts they read and what mattered most – the novel, or how their teacher presented it.

Dr Gordon, a senior lecturer in education, said: “This project is exploring what makes shared reading of novels powerful. Reading together is a completely different experience to how you read at home, indeed reading a book together in this way is quite an unusual thing to do. I’m trying to understand why we do that in education as there hasn’t really been any research to confirm its merits, even though many hours of school time are spent on this activity.

“I’m keen to find out what people enjoyed about reading in class, or what they didn’t, and what it is about the process of reading together that influences how they respond to the book.”

The research project, which is funded by the British Academy, involves primary and secondary school pupils, university students and teachers talking about their experiences of shared reading in class. It will also include interviews with members of public reading groups.

Commenting on the findings so far, Dr Gordon said: “In describing their most vivid memory of shared reading in schools, participants have described a very wide range of novels. Some recollections were less concerned with specific details but conveyed the importance of a routine, maybe associated with time of day. Sometimes they recalled the quality of the teacher’s voice.

“The most positive recollections described shared novel reading as a transformative and defining experience.”

Among the most remembered novels are:

To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee

The Valley of Adventure - Enid Blyton

Lord of the Flies - William Golding

Heidi - Joanna Spyri

Moonfleet - Wilkie Collins

Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë

The Catcher in the Rye - J D Salinger

The project is due to end in August and the findings will be used in education workshops and resources for teachers, as well as professional development materials, books and articles for teachers and researchers in education.

To take part in the survey visit https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/YQ26W63. To follow updates on the ‘Literature’s lasting impression’ project visit https://twitter.com/sharednovelread or @sharednovelread

Study Education & Lifelong Learning at UEA

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