There can be few more enjoyable moments amid the hectic pace of boarding school life than walking the corridor outside the Removes and Middles dorms, in my case in Lawrence House, watching the pupils read before lights out. After a busy day of lessons, sport, activities and the inevitable social media socialising and electronic gaming – usually involving football or shooting something – the temptation must be for the pupils to collapse in to bed with the teacher desperately trying to turn the lights out, ready to start the whole thing again tomorrow.
However, as Confucius said: “No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” Not only does it prevent ignorance but reading has such a calming effect on the pupils that talking after lights out ceases to be an issue. More importantly, it provokes discussion, comment, a sharing of experiences – “what are you reading?”, “is it any good?”, “have you read this, Sir?”, “what book are you reading, Sir?” are questions that lead from the simple act of lying in bed with a good “book”. I say “book” because the romantic notion of seeing pupils with their battered copies of Lord of the Rings or such like no longer exists. Many of our pupils stare intently at their Kindles, iPads, iPods etc. Much of the discussion in dorms revolves around which is the best e-reader as well as what’s the best story.
Other initiatives to promote reading appearing to be bearing fruit too. A recent visit by children’s author Charlie Higson, along with House book clubs and a central Library Book Club, are encouraging a climate of where it is cool to read (particularly if it’s about zombies or vampires), have a broader vocabulary and a more creative mind. It will certainly make a pleasant change from asking a pupil if they have read “X” to be told “no Sir, but I’ve seen the film”. Instead, I hope to ask: “Have you read ‘X’, to be told: “Yes, Sir, but “Y” is better”.
How do you get your pupils to read more? And what are they reading at the moment?