Today is Reading Together Day, and everyone is invited to share their experiences of reading, their favourite book(s) to read together or what they’ll be reading together during the summer online using #ReadingTogether.
Carl Pattison, English Hub leader at The Flying High Partnership, shares his favourite books and how important reading is not only to him, but also his pupils and his own children.
Books are magical: they hook us in with their power. The power of questions; the power of not wanting the book to end; the power of creating unique pictures that will always be better than watching the movie; the power of learning about our world through distant fictional worlds; the power of hope as we see characters deal with life’s challenges; the power of leaving your own space and time, immersed in the universe the author has created…
There is a strong and growing body of research* that shows how and why reading for pleasure can bring a range of other benefits to individuals and society. This includes improved social capital for children, young people and the general adult population; better parent-child communication and reduction of depression and dementia symptoms among adults. Despite the benefits of reading for pleasure, most children, and a third of adults, do not read for pleasure daily. Sadly, they’re missing out on the superpowers of reading.
Now as an English teacher I have read more children’s literature in the second half of my life than the first. Amongst the wonderful array of books I have read, the image above shows three personal favourites I have recently enjoyed. Katherine Rundell is a wonderful author and these two, for me, are some of her best pieces of work. However, ‘The Murderer’s Ape’ by Jakob Wegelius is something else and makes you feel like you are actually there with the characters. I can soon see it labelled as a ‘children’s classic.’
I personally have not always felt the power of books or a desire to read for pleasure. I was not lucky enough to come out of primary school as a fluent reader - I found the decoding of new words difficult and could not keep up with the class as they read. I hadn’t developed the skills to read with automaticity, so my working memory was flooded with the challenge of breaking down the text on the page. By doing this, I could not then enjoy the wonders of the words and how they linked together within each text.
I believe the most powerful connections are formed when we read together. My children are used to sharing stories and enjoying the wonder of them together – it’s a wonderful way to end the day and even have a little giggle together (‘Nobot the robot’ losing his bottom always makes us chuckle!). As well as the wonder and giggles, story time together as a family allows us to block out the world a little and truly connect. Being immersed together in a story is surely one of the strongest connections families can make.
Eventually, I did become a competent reader, which helped me to get a degree and then a successful teaching career which is fantastic. My own stumbling with reading has given me the drive to become a better teacher and now English Hub leader, and a mission to help children enjoy the power of books. It is a mission we can succeed in and one which will enable our children to enjoy reading throughout their lives - luckily there are so many wonderful authors out there providing me with the books to help achieve this.