Research has shown that young people are more likely to read following a recommendation from a peer rather than from a parent or teacher. Ian Anderson (Assistant Headteacher Churston Ferrers Grammar), school shared a link to their reading platform, which looks like an ideal way to stimulate and engage readers.
How can we shape a space, physical and virtual, to stimulate and grow our reading culture?
How can the high-profile one-off events of book days, reading weeks and author visits be supported by this space?
Students @DHSBoys – do you agree or disagree with my premise here and below?
I have always believed the apocryphal truth that you could predict a young person’s likely educational outcomes based on the number of books that were on display in their home. Books’ magical faculties were never supported by research into how many of them had been read and by whom, and the rise of the Kindle may require a refreshed expression, but reading is a key to enlightenment.
I am not a luddite. The internet enables me to share this blog post by David Taylor with you, which is a more articulate extension read to to this post – highly recommended.
In support of these grand claims of literature in the role of life-literacy and academic success, reading for pleasure needs to be taught, directly and by stealth by schools.
Boys at DHSB do read. Even among the gaming clans in classrooms you will find numerous readers. Many have been well-trained by tutors to carry a book or e-reader at all times.
But we cannot relax. The calls upon young people’s attention and concentration are manifold and it is easy to foresee a culture in which relatively challenging but more culturally enriching activities will be overwhelmed by the immediate and addictive ubiquity of devices and their frequent appeals to the lesser angels of our nature.
Like all educators, I am fascinated by the emergent sense of self. Literature enables us to form complex relationships beyond our direct experience. It frames big questions and leaves deep impressions that shape who we are. Reading is a challenge and a comfort, a place to be alone with one’s thoughts and a vehicle for face-to-face social interaction.
The Library ( I will call it this until we all decide we need a change), must be a space to grow the reading culture at DHSB as well as being a platform for research and study.
The concept of the book group has risen through popular culture and DHSB has its own. It is currently competing for a national award for book groups and shadowing the Baileys Prize.
The DHSB book club
Modelling success is something that all good schools do well and I’m sure we could build on the staff’s success and generate a student-led book group too.
Getting young men to read, in particular, isn’t easy. As an English teacher whose job it is to inculcate a love of literature and language, I should be able to say it has been straightforward to engender this passion in my own boys. It has not. Imagine a dentist’s children with bad teeth?*
However, once reading (often supervised), they love it. The conversation at the dinner table blossoms and all is right with the world. Unfortunately, we have to accept that the default position is the increasingly addictive virtual world. We need to be imaginative and persistent in challenging this.
We also need to provide strategies and support to assist DHSB parents in striking this balance and embedding a reading culture at home. Fifteen minutes reading before sleep is a surer way of getting proper rest than coming straight from the FIFA field.
Here’s a grander claim with a political nuance. Reading widely and deeply from a range of periods and genres is an agent of social mobility. Discuss.
*NB – creating a self-starting teeth cleaning culture isn’t easy either…