Reading Challenge 2018
Are you a good reader? Okay, now that 40% of you have stopped reading let’s up the stakes. Name the last five books you’ve read. That’s a tough one. How long did it take you to read them? Almost as long as it’s taking to remember what they were I imagine. Who have been your role models for reading? Do you see yourself as a reader?
Now, if you’re a parent, think about your child. Do you apply the same language? Is she a natural? Practically came out of the womb reading? Would she read underwater if you let her? Maybe she’s just not a reader. Oh well, the fairy godmother of reading can’t sprinkle all the kids with the reading bug!
Recently a colleague gave me a copy of Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Reader in Every Child. In it, she asks educators the same questions about their reading habits. Okay, okay, I’m an English teacher and look after the Loreto library. It’s my job to read. What struck me though was the way Miller talks about the fixed attitude we have to reading. That we think of ourselves as either readers or not. As an educator, most often I hear that your daughters were avid readers and now they’re not.
The thing is, reading is like a muscle. The more we use it, the stronger it gets. When we’re strong and well practised at something we enjoy doing it. Conversely, if we struggle with it it’s just so much easier to cue the beautifully produced film version instead. So you see, there’s a natural feedback loop in the act of reading, and if we can start sparking some positive reading experiences then we can strengthen the muscle, no fairy dust required.
Reading vs the technology vortex
I can hear the exasperated sighs already. We’d all love our kids to read more but how can we compete with technology? I’d love to read more but if binge watching Netflix were an Olympic sport I’d be a triple gold medalist by now. There’s no easy answer but from my reading (see what I did there?) I’ve discovered that establishing the right conditions can help.
Being told what to read elicits apathy. I’m an English teacher, I can attest to this. Every year it’s an uphill battle getting students to read the prescribed texts, no matter how wonderful they are. The thing is there’s a big difference between reading for school and reading for pleasure. Whether or not there ought to be is a debate for a different day. For now, let’s focus on reading for pleasure. This kind of reading is free from prejudice, you’re not reading someone else’s agenda. You’ve chosen the book in your hand for reasons known only to you. It’s what you want to read at this moment in time. It may be different to what you want to read next month or even next week but at this point it’s just right. Reading at your own level – free from judgement – is so important to achieving flow. When we talk about flow we’re talking about being totally in the zone, in this case losing yourself in sustained reading. Flow is important because it denotes the pleasure of being rapt in learning and therefore building the muscle we were talking about earlier.
If we want our kids to be readers – if we want to be readers – we need to loosen the reins on what we think we ought to be reading. A cursory look at the most popular young adult books tell us that young people are reading stories that deal with real issues, particularly things that fall outside the ‘norm’. They’re looking for stories to help them navigate a very complex world and they’re finding solace in protagonists who display authenticity, courage in the face of adversity and who use their voice for the greater good.
Time wasted, time utilised?
A lack of time is the singular most common reason I hear as a reason for not reading more. When time is poor we tend to prioritise things that we think are important over things that nourish us in the long run. I know kids will say that they have too much school work to read. They tell me as much all the time. Well-considered homework tasks that complement the classroom learning are valuable but becoming a reader has across the board benefits. There is an inextricable link between reading and writing, between reading and reading more, between reading for pleasure and improved comprehension – not to mention the life-altering benefits of human empathy. We have a cultural obsession with efficiency and sustained leisure reading appears to have no place in the productivity race. Student requests for the fastest possible route to an answer belie this desire for expediency. It can be hard to take the long road, especially when we’re already feeling overwhelmed.
It’s true, kids these days are very busy. In addition to jam-packed schedules, reading must compete with the dopamine inducing likes of social media. We know kids feel addicted to social media and many of us are also beginning to realise the negative consequences of social media addiction on our sleep. I always recommend no screen time before bed and for senior students who may be on their computers studying past 8pm, ensuring they have F.lux installed on their laptops in order to lessen the damaging effect of screens on sleep. Reading for 30 minutes before bed is a sleep revolution. It must be fiction and it mustn’t be school or work related. It gives our brains a chance to put aside daily stresses by lulling us into a world that’s not our own and sets the scene for a deep sleep.
Reading role models
If we say we value reading then we must align our actions to our words. Children need to see adults reading. Not just at the beach over the Christmas holidays or flipping through a magazine at the Doctor’s office, they need to see us reading all the time. They need to see their teachers reading, their parents reading and their peers. There’s a beautiful social aspect of reading, the books we share connect us. They open up conversations around our reading identities and when we ‘prescribe’ books to one another we affirm our knowledge and care of them. I implore you to read some of the books your daughter is reading, you don’t need to conduct a mini-lesson afterwards gauging character development and structural choices, just a casual conversation around what you liked and what you didn’t like. When we talk about what we read we become a community of readers and we connect on a deep human level.
Now that you are thoroughly persuaded as to the life-altering benefits of being a reader, here’s your chance to do something about it.
Sign up to the Loreto 2018 Reading Challenge
The aim of the inaugural Loreto Normanhurst Reading Challenge is to foster sustained engagement in reading for leisure and pleasure. We welcome readers of all ages, levels and enthusiasm.
Terms of engagement:
- We’re reading 12 books in 12 months but this is about you, so set your own reading goal. It should be challenging but achievable. The good news is 12 months includes the 2018-2019 summer holidays. Woo!
- The aim of the game is to read the stuff you love but also find some new stuff to love. Pick your categories from the ones listed below. There will be some awesome installations in the library over the course of the year to help put incredible books in your hands.
- If you don’t love it after the first 20 pages, boot it. This isn’t like the time you begged your Mum for keyboard lessons and then had to finish the term. Life’s too short to read average books. Ask us, we’re here to help you discover amazing books.
- No book reviews, no comprehension questions, just reading for reading’s sake. BUT, if you love something, insta us @loretolibraryreads
- Sign up here
Your 12 books must encompass one of the following:
- A book based on a true story
- A book by an author of a different ethnicity to you
- A book with a number in the title
- A book that has been made into a film or TV series
- A book that has been shortlisted for an award
- A book recommended by a librarian, teacher, older student or colleague
- A book that is set in another country
- A banned book
- A book chosen solely by its cover
- A book that will make you smarter
- A piece of historical fiction
- A classic
- Wildcard (anything you want!)
- A book with a kick ass female heroine
- A book published in 2018
- A book with a one word title
- A book by an Australian author
- A book you’ve been meaning to read but haven’t gotten to yet
If I can’t persuade you let me leave you with the wise words of Wonder Woman, “a new journey to be started, a new promise to be fulfilled, a new page to be written.”
Ms Elizabeth Green
Knowledge and Learning Strategist