When a Reading for Pleasure strategy has instant success!

The Fundamentals of Readaxation. Illustration by Katherine Lynas.One of my favourite audiences is one that’s full of school librarians. Any librarians will do, tbh, but school ones are so in tune with my message that it’s a pure joy.

Recently I did a training day for school librarians in Lincolnshire. It was a lovely day: twelve librarians but each was able to bring a friend, so there were also people in other school roles. Another aspect that I loved was that I’d been asked to talk about wellbeing for the librarians and other adults, too, not just for the students. That’s incredibly important, as we can’t help other people so well if we aren’t “in a good place” ourselves.

The day was split into three sessions:

  1. The science and psychology of stress and its affects on wellbeing and performance
  2. Strategies to manage the same
  3. The specific role of Reading for Pleasure, including some of the science and, crucially, how to make it happen in schools.

Re that last point, one of my core suggestions is an interpretation of Victor Nell’s three core conditions for reading for pleasure: adequate reading skills + correct book selection + expectation of benefit. I pointed out that everyone traditionally focuses on the first two and ignores the third: expectation of benefit.

In order to be motivated to do something, you have to expect a benefit. This will ideally be immediate or almost immediate. Thus, you go for a walk, meet a friend, go swimming, eat chocolate or pick up a book because you think you’re going to enjoy it or benefit in some noticeable way. If you do, you’re likely to do it again. If you don’t, you’re not.

Those of us who are keen readers and know the pleasure of books don’t have to be reminded of the “benefits” before we pick up a book, but they still motivate us subliminally. People who – including young, pre- and emerging readers – don’t know these benefits because they haven’t yet experienced them, need some encouragement before they’ll try.

So, the method I suggest is as follows:

  1. Discuss with your intended book-lovers what benefits (pleasures) they might expect and enjoy. The benefits must be a) fairly immediate and b) ones they themselves want and would appreciate. Make this discussion warm, inclusive, accepting. I have a list here.
    • Get each person to choose for themselves 2-4 benefits they would like to get from a book.
    • Get each person to choose a book they think/hope will give them those benefits.
  2. Organise time to read. This could be a class reading session but it doesn’t have to be; they could do it at home. Some readers don’t like reading in a group of people; they want their bed and privacy!
  3. Afterwards, discuss whether they did notice the benefits/pleasures they wanted – and maybe others, too. They almost always will notice the benefits they expect, unless it was the wrong book choice. This tendency to notice what we expect is called confirmation bias and it’s a well-known common human behaviour which is sometimes, as in this case, useful.

I was delighted to receive an email from the lovely librarian at The Priory Academy LSST the next day. She has two Year 7 groups for a reading session once a week and it is not always easy to engage them all in reading for pleasure.

But:

“Today, I had two year 7 groups but at the beginning of each lesson I talked to them about this being all about reading for pleasure, asked the ones who put their hands up to say they already liked reading what instant benefits they experience from reading, and asked the ones who said they didn’t to view the lesson as an experiment where they will give it a really serious try and see if they experience any of these reported benefits. These lessons were altogether more positive, the kids were ALL focused and absorbed in their books. We talked again at the end, most said they found it relaxing and quite a few previously unenthusiastic ones borrowed.”

Excellent! My work here is done!

If your organisation or school would like me to come and do a training session on this or almost any aspect of human wellbeing, adolescence, life online, or to talk to parents about these topics, don’t delay getting in touch. I am very fully booked for most months till Feb 2020 and planning to reduce my speaking engagements from then onwards. See here for details.

Thank you to all school librarians for the work you do: you may not feel it’s always fully valued but there are plenty of us (especially children’s authors) out there who really do know the importance of what you do. Look after yourselves and remember my Table of Wellbeing:

© Katherine Lynas 2019

And what happens if you don’t look after your relaxation…

© Katherine Lynas 2019

 

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