Modern reading

Attitude to reading.

What role do books play in our lives?

 It’s rather sad that many people read much less or don’t read at all nowadays. But I’m sure that reading is the best learning.

 As for me, reading is my favourite pastime.  First of all, books are our best teachers and friends: because they have the power to educate and entertain us, to stirs our imagination. When I’m tired, I like reading detective stories and thrillers.  When I want something more serious and instructive, for example doing a research or a project at school I take an encyclopedia or read some documentaries.  I also love reading when I’m travelling, when I’m having meals, when I’m bored or just for relaxation.

 Other people think that reading books is a waste of time. They are sure that they can get all the information they need from television, radio, and the Internet. They claim that these types of media inform about everything that is going on in the world, provide us with extra detail and comment on different events.  They just read everything online and check the news on the websites, that’s why they’ve ceased buying books, magazine; and newspapers. Besides, they say the fewer books we buy, the more trees we save.

 Nevertheless, I can’t agree with this point of view. Nothing can replace the enjoyment of reading. Moreover, it’s a question of time what is more wasteful: a real picturesque book or an e-book.  When I come home after a hard day’s work I realize that I need some “brain food”.  I remember when I was a child, my mother used to read me fairy tales; and different children’s stories. And I still like when someone is reading for me. So, when I’m tired, I can just lie down, close my eyes, relax and listen to a story.

 Technology has made our lives much easier. It has also changed the way of how people read and write. At English lessons we got acquainted with a popular contemporary writer Michael Rosen.  I can still remember as we burst into laughter when we heard him telling about his “strict teacher” or about “chocolate cake”. Although he is quite modern and fashionable, his stories are absolutely nothing like awful second-rate books on the modern shelves, which don’t teach us anything. Moreover, reading them does a lot of harm, especially to children and teenagers.  The books of this writer are fascinating and what is more, they are acted by the author and can be heard. And what an ACTOR he is! You can’t help laughing while listening to him. All his works are a welcome message with a powerful ending. I was so greatly impressed by his works that decided to find out something about this incredible person.

 Educationalist Morag Styles has described Rosen as «one of the most significant figures in contemporary children’s poetry». He was, says Styles, one of the first poets «to draw closely on his own childhood experiences and to ‘tell it as it was‘ in the ordinary language children actually use».

 Michael Rosen says he became a children’s poet by accident.  But «Once I was in the children’s book world, I never got out.» – He admits. His first book for children was called Mind Your Own Business and it came out in 1974.  He has since become a very well-known poet, for adults as well as children, and also writes plays; he has worked in television and radio too and has been involved in one way or another with more than a hundred books. The best children’s poet in the world ever! Michael is the only poet who can make you laugh out loud.

 Rosen uses his radio and theatre experience throughout recordings, reading his prose poems clearly and expressively and he gives full vent to the strong rhythms that drive his Nonsense poems on, making the most of the comical rhymes.  It’s impossible not to agree with the Observer‘s verdict that his work is great at «turning the world inside out and making it funny.»

 He teaches at Birkbeck, University of London and  he presents a radio programme called ‘Word of Mouth’ on BBC Radio 4.   He also visits schools where he does a kind of one-man poetry show and often follows up with workshops for teachers on writing and reading.

 Michael Rosen was born on May 7th 1946 in a place called Harrow, Middlesex. It was on a road called Roxborough Park, near Harrow-on-the-Hill tube station. His parents told him that the night he was born, the church next door to where they lived burned down.

 He went to a nursery school and then to a primary school.

 Mike was brought up by his mum and dad. When they were young, his parents had been very poor — the father especially. Some of their parents and grandparents were immigrants from Poland, Russia and Romania. But they were very, very, very interested in education, schools, learning and books. They were very keen that Michael and his brother should do well at school.  At the same time, Mike admits they were very funny, humorous people who loved jokes, stories and songs. His father loved to sing songs in lots of different languages as well as saying bits of poetry or plays – especially Shakespeare.  This meant that Mike’s head was full of all kinds of words and expressions.

 He is often asked: «How can you remember your childhood so well?» And his answer is astonishing: «I’d put that another way, I don’t understand why other people don’t remember their childhood very well. Maybe in my case, it’s because in our family we would very often tell each other stories about things that we’d all been involved in. You’d think that would be a bit weird, because if we were there, we didn’t need to tell each other about it. But that’s the way we were.»

 Mike’s brother is four years older than him and he was like a third parent. Anything they taught him at school, he thought he had to teach Mike. He was (and still is) a very funny person too.  He was very good at imitating people he knew, including mum and dad, which he liked to do in the bedroom they shared.

 A good deal of Rosen’s poems are about his life between the ages of about 2 and 12. These poems are in such books as:

 

Mind Your Own Business

Wouldn’t You Like To Know?

 

You Tell Me (with Roger McGough)

The Hypnotiser (his son Joe filmed him performing all the poems from this book.

 

Quick, Let’s Get Out of Here

You Wait Till I’m Older Than You

 

Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy

Michael’s Big Book of Bad Things

 

There is also a book for children about him with photos of where he lived called Michael Rosen’s Scrapbook

And finally a book for children he’s written about his life called All About Me

 

 When Michael was 11, he went to a school called Harrow Weald County Grammar School. His brother was there already. It was a mixed school, with a grey school uniform.  While he was there, he loved doing acting and writing stories and he started to write poems. Mike had some very good friends, especially someone called David, who was very interested in painting and jazz. In his spare time, he loved going to an acting club called the Young Questors at the Questors Theatre in Ealing, where he learned how to act and direct plays.

 When Rosen was 17, the family moved house, so he moved schools. Around this time, he thought that he would quite like to be a doctor. So Michael went off to the Middlesex Hospital Medical School. But he wasn’t happy and he hatched a plan: if Mike went to the same college as his brother, it would be fairly easy to change back to doing English. So he was very lucky and got into Wadham College, Oxford.

 He did one more year of medical things, and then changed to English Language and Literature.  All the time he was at university, he spent many, many hours writing, acting and directing plays.

 While Mike was at university, he wrote a play called ‘Backbone’ that was put on  at the Royal Court Theatre, in London. This was his first ever book.

 When he finished university, he went to work for the BBC. First of all Michael worked on radio plays and documentaries, then he went to work for a children’s programme called ‘Playschool’ and  after that, he worked in BBC Schools Television where he wrote a programme helping very young children to learn how to read. It was called ‘Sam on Boff’s Island’.

 Rosen played a key role in opening up children’s access to poetry: both through his own writing and  with important anthologies such as Culture Shock.  He was one of the first poets to make visits to schools throughout the UK and further afield in Australia, Canada and Singapore. His tours continue to enthuse and engage school children about poetry in the present.  “Teachers Write To Me Saying, ‘What About Poetry?’” he says. “The best thing you can do with poetry is just enjoy reading it together with the children. That has to be the starting point — not all that nonsense about quizzing them about adjectives and metaphors. So first thing: set up situations in which it feels good to read aloud together, read in groups, read silently. This could involve you putting poems up on the wall, without saying why! Just bung’em up and leave them there.  Just before play or going-home time, you could gather them on the carpet and say, ‘hey listen to this’ and read them a poem. No questions asked. Just read it”.

 

Ever since then, Michael Rosen has been doing these things:

 

  • writing books
  • writing articles for newspapers and magazines
  • coming to schools, libraries and theatres and performing the poems in his books
  • helping children write poems and stories
  • making radio programmes, mostly about words, language or books
  • appearing on TV, either reading books, or talking about books
  • teaching at universities about children’s literature
  • running workshops for teachers about poetry

 In any week, he might be doing all of these things! “To tell the truth,” he says,  “I don’t really know what I’m doing tomorrow, unless I look in my diary to see.”

 Various people have wanted to say that what Rosen writes isn’t poetry, or isn’t good enough, and it annoys them that he’s been quite popular with what they think of as trash.  So really they want to say, get off the poetry patch, you are just a weed, and you are strangling the flowers.  But he always replies by saying, “don’t worry, don’t call it poetry if it offends you, and call it «stuff» or «bits» and then you don’t need to get all huffy about it!”

 But I can claim that hearing Michael speak inspires people to believe that they can do something that might seem extreme, but that might also change the world.

 I was totally captivated by his stories where so many complexities are exposed: the love and pain, the dreams and frustrations.  His books are about opening the heart and about welcoming,  and they have opened both our hearts and our minds in deep ways. He says:  

 So I want to share my greatest fascination and admiration in order all of you get acquainted with this incredible writer and person.

He is a MUST to know.