As we return to school, having had what I hope has been a restful Half Term holiday, it is pertinent to reflect on one of the wonderful aspects of any holiday for me – that of reading a good book!
As we return to school, having had what I hope has been a restful Half Term holiday, it is pertinent to reflect on one of the wonderful aspects of any holiday for me – that of reading a good book! In October, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and children’s author and comedian David Walliams launched a campaign to make English pupils the most literate in Europe within five years. International surveys show that our Year 5 and 6 children in England are currently ranked sixth.
I personally believe that our love of reading stems from a very early age, when parents and children will read with one another on a daily basis. I am therefore pleased to see that the Department for Education is working with the charity 4Children to equip parents and teachers with activities and resources to help develop pre-school children’s language skills with the aim of getting more children reading before they start school.
Nicky Morgan also called on leading publishers to give secondary schools access to classic novels by great English authors including Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Emily Bronte. I think that this is an excellent initiative. I certainly established my interest in these classics at school and they have remained with me ever since.
David Walliams said: “At the heart of this campaign is a very simple shared ambition - to get more children reading. Few things can compete with the joy of getting stuck into a good book and I believe that is something no child should miss out on.”
Whilst this is a laudable aim, one of the things that I do know is that the most effective way to encourage young people to read is to ensure that they have access to books about subjects and themes that interest, inspire and are relevant to them. On this note, I am sure that our girls will have benefited from having the time to pick up something to read and just enjoying it for ‘enjoyment sake’.
It is also important not to exclude young people by offering a diet of literature that fails to acknowledge social and cultural differences. I was interested, for example, in a BBC news story where a 14-year-old boy, who was born with a disability, called on the UK’s publishers to include more disabled characters in children’s books, and asked why the villains of children’s stories are so often “deformed”. I hope too, that our students have used their time wisely over Half Term to think about things differently. That is exactly what reading can do for you.
Nevertheless, simply insisting that teenagers read ‘the classics’ will go little way towards encouraging reluctant readers. It is more important that we as teachers and parents make clear that we value a wide range of literature. Diversity is key and as such, I hope that over the holiday, our girls have managed to engage in this diversity. It is not only interesting but fun too. This week, our theme is ‘honesty’. Perhaps, it would be poignant to ask our girls, how much, in all honesty, they have used their half term wisely to read, be inspired and think differently?