B Is for Book is about children learning to read – and it’ll fill you with joy

Try being anxious about Britain's future with this magical BBC4 film about four- and five-year-olds getting to grips with literature


However you voted in the EU Referendum, for most of us it’s been a strange couple of weeks where sometimes it’s seemed the country is about to collapse under the weight of its own confusion and in-fighting.


But after watching B Is for Book, it’s hard not to believe everything’s going to be just fine.

Seeing small children – who don’t yet have views on Michael Gove or Jeremy Corbyn or immigration – begin school and learn how to read is incredibly uplifting.

Set in Kingsmead Primary School in London’s Hackney, the BBC4 film follows children in reception and year one as they discover letters.

It’s interesting to see how they grapple with words, how the teachers motivate them to learn – but the kids, as the saying goes, also say the sweetest, funniest things. Steffan speaks beautifully but struggles with reading because he can’t quite focus for long enough. You can really feel his pain when he tells the teacher, shaking his head with a withering look, “I really don’t know how to read books”. Meanwhile his twin brother Nicholas is so into reading, he’ll probably be on Dostoyevsky by the time the doc airs on TV.

Another child is reading a book which mentions love. “What is love?” she’s asked by the camera man. “Love is when someone likes someone and they don’t know what’s going on,” she replies. Wise words.

But what’s also fascinating is seeing snapshots of these children’s lives. In such a culturally diverse borough like Hackney, the school is full of kids who come from families where English isn’t necessarily the first language. Seeing parents of all races, religions and lifestyles tirelessly helping their kids do spelling tests and reading each night fills you with joy.

Four-year-old Sienna, who wants to be a butterfly when she grows up, is lacking confidence in her reading and doesn’t always listen in class. “Do you always listen?” she asks a classmate, thoughtfully. “You’re a good girl. I’m sometimes a bit in trouble”.

So when the kids, like Sienna, who struggle a bit do eventually manage to read a story – and enjoy it – you might find you’ve got something in your eye. It will bring memories of your own childhood (the good bits and the bad bits) hurtling back.

There’s an especially joyous moment when Steffan’s parents take him to a bookshop to explore. Lying down on the floor, he holds up a book and starts turning the pages. “This one doesn’t actually feel useless,” he says, surprised. “It feels quite great.”


So yes, try watching B Is for Book and still feeling anxious about Britain’s future. Stick with these kids and we’ll be fine.

B Is for Book is on BBC4 at 9pm on Tuesday 5th July