This week at school I have been focused on reading - promoting and persuading students to read, to make reading goals and I even had the opportunity to speak to parents on supporting their children's reading in secondary school.
In class time I have been asking students to revisit their Goodreads accounts and making reading goals for the 4 months to the end of 2014. I have helped them find something to read by offering suggestions and through searching the catalogue. I also encouraged them to suggest books for the library to purchase. I have also tried to help them make the connection between reading and writing, citing the research (both subjective and anecdotal) about how high academic achievers are also avid readers because of their ability to articulate their thoughts with a wider vocabulary, increased general knowledge, the ability to make connections in the world and having a wider perspective on topics. They will also probably be better at creative writing. As we move toward banned books week I will also be mentioning how if governments want control, they burn the books and free thinking and dispose of authors and academics. Books and reading create thinkers (and hence troublemakers).
Having lived in Hong Kong for over 20 years now I have heard many stories first hand from Chinese adults born in the 1960's who grew up with parents who viewed reading for pleasure as a waste of time as it was a hedonistic activity and it did not lead to any greater, utilitarian benefit. They needed to read uplifting and serious books, mainly Chinese classics with a clear message or learning about life, or school related material. Fiction was forbidden. The young readers had to hide their books and sneak their reading. If they were caught, they would be in serious trouble.
This attitude in general does not seem to be the case today, with the Hong Kong book fair receiving 1 million visitors over 7 days, reading books is seen as a legitimate way to spend time, however, I am not sure the full benefits of reading as found through the research is widely known in our local Hong Kong community. The students at our school are quite surprised to make the connection that the students who achieve the highest grades are also the ones who read the most - in any language. They also asked - how can we fit reading AND homework into our lives? It is a well known and researched phenomena that the time spent reading drops as students move through the higher grades due to school work demands.
At the beginning of each year our students need to set goals - academic and personal improvement goals. Am I being manipulative and scheming to suggest to them that the easiest and most enjoyable way to improve their grades is to increase their reading to at least 30 minutes a day and to plan to read at least one book a week?
I feel no guilt or shame, I am saying these things anyway. Let's see where it takes them.
The above image was created as a brief summary for parents of the articles below:-
Greenfield, Patricia. "How Reading Effects Your Brain and Behavior." How Reading Effects Your Brain and Behavior. N.p., 23 Oct. 2013. Web.
Howard, Jacqueline. "Reading Changes Brain's Connectivity, Study Suggests." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 30 Dec. 2013. Web.
Paul, Annie Murphy. "Your Brain on Fiction." The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 Mar. 2012. Web. 04 Sept. 2014.
"Reading Fiction Improves Brain Connectivity and Function." Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Sept. 2014.
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McKenzie, D. (2014, 8 September) Reading persuasion. Retrieved from http://librarygrits.blogspot.hk/2014/09/reading-persuasion.html