Twice a year at this blog I reflect on books read. While drafting that soon to be published post, I started thinking about how children become avid readers and how significant adults in their lives assist construction of this identity. I suspect that peers play a large part in this process but the ground must be fertilised from the beginning.
I became an English teacher because I like reading.
Like is not even remotely a strong enough verb. In reality, reading has been with me more consistently than any person, house or other interest. Often, as a child, I read late into the night and woke early to continue the book that had captured my imagination.
Reading is both leaving home, and returning safely.
Now, my daily walk to the train station at 6am, with headphones, allows me to keep ‘reading’ my audiobook. The train trip and walk at the other end mean that most days I have two hours ‘in my book’ while in transit. I always have handy a combination of paper, audio and e-books.
The formation of an identity that makes reading of central importance is something I often wonder about. One of my grandmothers, and an aunt, were always describing me as a ‘bookworm’ to others with an oxymoronic tone of both praise and condemnation. It is hard to know who had the most impact on my identity as a reader but certainly childhood friends, when I was 8 or 9, like Anthony and the occasional teacher were very influential. One English teacher, in Year 7, Mrs Hoddinott, threw me a copy of Catch 22 when I asked her what that was about after seeing about 100 of them on her desk. I have re-read that book many times since.
I do suspect Mum & Dad were the key.
As an English teacher, I know the importance of parents in the creation of ‘readers’. If neither parent reads it becomes a ‘do what I say, not what I do’ situation and as you know, kids are very good at spotting the subtext of life. The real message, when Mum and Dad do not read is that reading is not important for people like them. That it is for others.
This is doubly so with boys. If Dad, or significant male role models read, the chances of a young man picking up a book or e-book increases manifold. I vividly remember, pre attending school, walking around the house with Dad’s books, pretending to read them. I have often said that reading was his gift to me.
Mum always encouraged me to read and took me to the library each week. She understood the importance and set me on that path just as much as Dad.
Schools really need to encourage reading for pleasure. Our school has almost finished refurbishing the library, making it a more contemporary and salubrious space. Technology is valued but the walls of front-facing shelves display some highly alluring titles. Over the last three years borrowing fiction has increased significantly.
Teachers really have a part to play in encouraging reading that goes beyond formal instruction in the classroom. Teachers should share what they read with students. A book sitting on their desk or a few minutes discussing a passion for reading, especially male teachers who do not teach English, can really show students that books, ebooks and audiobooks are part of leading the good life daily in a civil society.
Regardless of one’s outlook or ideology, reading is central.
How are you influencing others to read for pleasure? How are you giving the gift of reading? How did your identity as ‘a reader’? form
Featured Image: creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Darcy Moore: http://flickr.com/photos/darcymoore/11814812603