The Routine of Reading
With the recent success of Book Week here at KIS, our minds once again turn to the importance of reading. One of the most often-repeated pieces of advice given to students at school and at Parents’ Afternoon is how vitally important it is to read. As an English Teacher in Secondary, the most meaningful advice I can always provide when asked “How can I/my son/my daughter improve in English?” is to respond with:
“By reading.” Simple and essential. And relevant to not only English, but every single area of our development. Academic, social, emotional, mental health…the list of benefits to our own lives is huge. It is not so often-repeated for no reason.
This may be seen as recommendation which is losing relevance slightly in a modern world where physical books appear (for better or worse) to be fighting a battle of sorts against other means of media, but I would argue that on the contrary, there are now more opportunities for active and engaged reading than ever before. Books are just a very small (but important!) part of that.
Reading does not have to involve a book. True – It is my opinion that there truly is nothing quite as magical as sitting down with a physical book and getting lost in a story; I love it. Always have and always will. But with the emergence of instant news, room for anyone to comment on anything, and new ways to access online media, in many ways we are actually in a position now where we can find any kind of writing about anything in a matter of seconds. We can even write some of it ourselves.
Stories about any event in the world break within moments and within minutes entire articles, blogs, vlogs and so on appear for our consumption from a variety of outlets with a range of perspectives. Many of these may have explicitly conveyed opinions. Others are purely factual. Some even appear factual but have hidden agendas. All achieved through clever use of language. Surely if we read and critically develop our understanding of this, we better understand how writers work, and pick up their techniques. And then we can use them when we have to write to persuade, argue, advise or inform. And we become more critical consumers of knowledge and media. A key skill in navigating this modern, connected world.
The best way to develop vocabulary is also by reading. Studies have shown that having a routine of reading established from a very young age can bear fruit in later years, especially where vocabulary is concerned. That includes being read to by parents or guardians before reading can be done by a young person themselves. Emotion can be a complex thing to articulate. Why not equip ourselves as best as we can to be able to tell people how we feel, and to understand it more too? To interpret and describe things accurately and even creatively is a key skill which can not only assist us in our day-to-day lives, but also open so many doors for future careers. To be a good communicator is so vital in every walk of life.
Often, a recommended time to spend reading is quoted. “20 minutes per-day”. “30 minutes per-day” and so on. I disagree slightly with this way of blocking off chunks of time. In today’s world, with so many distractions, the idea of enforcing a timetable for something as liberating and enjoyable as reading feels forced. Instead, I prefer to suggest that there are a huge amount of small moments during a day when reading can be done. We are all quick to get our phones out when faced with any kind of pause in our day; they have effectively replaced boredom. The easy thing to do would be to say that is a bad thing. I actually disagree. It is a chance to read something: news, sports news, gossip columns, opinion pieces…Or a chance to get a book out, whether it be a physical paperback or even a Kindle-style book on your phone. And there you have a few minutes of reading time. A routine of reading.
In the car on the way home from school. Waiting in line at a food court. Sitting out waiting for a friend in a shopping mall. All times to read. A routine of reading.
But that should never take away from the pure and simple fact that it is good to sit as often as you can in a comfortable chair, with a good book, and just lose yourself in another world for a while. Both during good times and bad, I have often turned to lessons learnt from reading books to make decisions in my life, or to reflect on things. There are worlds and characters and stories out there which can help to guide us all, make us more critical and aware of the world around us, and fill us with emotions we never imagined a series of words on a page could make us feel. There is magic hidden between those pages.
Please value reading. It is never too late to add it to your routine. Pick up a new book or your phone today. You will not regret it.
Mr Andrew Withers
Assistant Head of Secondary