Sunday, 1 July 2012

Slow Reading

On one of the walls of our Learning Support classrooms there is a poster quoting Joseph Addison, "Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body." - accompanied by a picture of a weightlifter trying to hold up an oversized dumbell. I think this pretty much sums up the work our team has undertaken in this area within school over the past two years - and by that I don't just mean using up blu-tack!

I guess I am somewhat of a traditionalist in the way I approach reading with my students, many of whom experience wide-ranging reading difficulties. I take the simple (though hopefully not simplistic) view that they need to keep practising reading, keep plugging away at it - albeit in a supportive, encouraging environment (click here for a quick practical example of what I mean by this). I also take the view that whilst we have to recognise the nature of reading is changing in this new Information Age (moving to one in which scanning and skimming predominates), there continues to be a need for students to develop at least basic functionality in 'the art of slow reading'.

Reading Skellig by David Almond recently with a Y8 group has re-affirmed this as I've watched the students really consolidate and enrich their burgeoning reading skills (and concentration skills, and social skills, and so on) by taking over 2 hours each week to simply sit and read with one another - and then engage in some great discussions about the story's many themes and questions. It's what we've been working with them on for two years, often in a quite dry technical sense, and this has proved a fitting end of the year. As a side note, it's also directed me towards looking further into P4C (Philosophy 4 Children) as a possible way of raising the thinking skills of National Curriculum Level 3 English students towards the demands of Level 4 and above.

But slow reading is not just something we need to continue to engage students in. Certainly I have noticed that as the time between my university years and the present moment increases, and as my working life becomes more demanding, I read less books from cover to cover. Instead I tend to rely heavily on the internet and 'toedipping' into a range of sources. There are of course benefits in this method in terms of the ground covered and time saved. But as with Skellig, setting aside a few hours each week to read and reflect on a powerful book - such as Toxic Childhood by Sue Palmer or The Starfish and The Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom - remains equally beneficial in terms of really taking on board new ideas which than then be used to shape practice. Not forgetting the added benefits to maintaining well-being and performance, as with our students, that this brings.

And so, with these thoughts in mind, this weekend I have taken the time to create four recommended reading lists using Amazon's Listmania:
I've also added Barrington Stoke books to the links section of this site as, to date, these have proved the most successful collection of books in terms of progressively increasing reading skills amongst students who experience persistent difficulties in this area - usually via 1-1 paired reading sessions or small withdrawal groups.

Any suggestions on other good reads would be appreciated - simply leave a comment...

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