Today’s article has been guest-written by Peter Fremaux, Head of Secondary; he is an enthusiastic advocate of reading for pleasure and, in this article, he puts forward compelling reasons why reading should never be considered a chore.
I wandered into an English class earlier this week and was met by the scene of students arguing and criticising each other’s views on everything from fast food to football teams. The teacher quickly explained that I needn’t worry about arguments and discord sweeping the halls of the school; they said that what I was actually seeing was part of the poetry unit students are working on. Recently we were lucky enough to be visited by the world-renowned performance poet, Lemn Sissay. Students inspired by Lemn’s work had been working on performance poetry of their own and the class had developed this in to a form of poetry battle.
Now, interestingly, I’m not a big fan of poetry but for many people poetry is the medium that explains life and feelings in a way other written styles fail to do. Poetry engages people in an emotional way that is almost unique. For me though I prefer a good story. Nothing makes me happier than sitting down with a fine story with great characters and an engaging plot. My favourite books hook me in a way poetry does for so many others. I get lost in the world the author creates and can become quite emotionally engaged with the characters. Many a time I find myself getting upset when something tragic happens or relieved when it turns out well. Other people I know don’t enjoy a traditional book but love comics. They spend time reading these, finding engagement in the plots of daring superheroes.
I love works of fiction, whereas I know numerous people who love works of fact. Where I would sit down with a great story, they become engrossed in works of philosophy or biographies or diaries. Others I know love reading collections of letters from those long gone, with the correspondence shining a light in to the life of people in the distant past. Others I know are never happier than sitting down leafing through an encyclopedia discovering random facts; whilst others voracious read magazines on politics, business or fashion.
Whether we love poetry or fiction, comics or biography we all share a love of one thing. Reading. Reading is one of life’s true joys whatever form it takes. For centuries the ability to read has been something that has opened the door to education and opportunity and we are still living in this time. With the rapid development of computers and other technologies maybe this will be less important as the spoken word from automated instructions takes more of a central role.
However, what I don’t think will every be replaced is the utter pleasure reading brings. Unlike films and television, reading can stimulate the reader in a way where they become totally immersed. Maybe it’s the greater effort reading takes over watching or listening that leads to this. Maybe it is because it is something that you do at your own pace, allowing the space for greater thought or imagination. Regardless, there is something different about reading in whatever form it might take.
Sadly, though some of our students are not so in love with reading. For some parents getting their child to read can be a real challenge and even for some of us teachers it is the same. There is no quick fix to this, though there are some things we can do. Much research shows that students model themselves on us; for younger children the bedtime story or reading together definitely helps development – particularly when both mother and father are involved. For children of all ages research shows the benefit of seeing other adults read and having books around the house also helps. Basing activities around books is a great idea; reading the book and then seeing the film is often a real motivator. In addition, taking an interest in what children are reading helps stimulate interest because when someone is engaged in a story they usually wish to explain it to others.
I remember a sign on the wall of a library in my old school, which read “10 Ways To Become Better at Reading- read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read”
Thank you for reading.