Encouraging a love of reading

By Greg Whitby, 16 August 2017
Greg Whitby is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.

Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

How many people can remember a book they read as a child that had a profound impact on their life? For me, I wasn’t always a reader; for me it was the adventures of Biggles that began my life-long love of reading. In fact, I was so slow to develop an interest in books and reading that my parents were concerned. It wasn’t until I was 9 years old when my neighbour gave me a copy of Biggles that I became hooked!

Nurturing a love of reading can begin at home from a very young age but it’s vital that it continues on throughout schooling. At no other time have teachers been more important when it comes to encouraging their students to read.

While the research tells us very clearly that parents reading aloud to young children lays the foundations for reading and writing, teachers engender a great love of books by sharing their own love of reading with their students, and by introducing them to new authors, different genres and guiding them to reading material that will capture their attention and imagination.

The work of all schools is to continually seize upon opportunities that promote the magic of reading and the power of books. Many schools participate in the Premier’s Reading Challenge, Book Week and the Executive Director’s Summer Reading Challenge, as well as invite authors to come to their school to share their stories and talk about the joy of reading. Teachers often say this is when books and reading truly comes alive for the students. I have always encouraged schools to allow students to chose their own books, where that is possible,  as a way of nurturing reading especially among boys.

Reading is like running a marathon. You need to start small and build up your skills and confidence. There is little value in getting children to read books that are beyond their reading ability. A love of reading comes from reading what we love!

One of the best head-starts parents can give to their children is to read to them every day. Take an interest in what they like and find whatever is available – books, magazines, cartoons etc. Point out words, ask questions and share your own love of reading. School and public libraries have great collections for younger and older readers alike.

And if your child is slow to reading, talk to his/her teachers. Find out what is being read in the classroom, how many times a week they visit the school library and ensure teachers know what interests your child so they can help to find suitable books.

Schools around Australia will be celebrating Book Week from 19-26 August. The theme this year is ‘Escape to everywhere’. What an appropriate theme – after all, books provide the escape hatch to everywhere!

Greg Whitby

Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta

 

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