Reading for Pleasure and the summer holidays – a pledge

Today I’m giving the prize-giving speech at Derwent Lodge school in Kent.

Before it, I’m doing a double-length workshop for Years 5 and 6, all about the FLOURISH concept (Food, Liquid, Oxygen, Use, Relaxation, Interest, Sleep and Happiness) that Positively Teenage focuses on. They will end up by making their own Flourish posters for their bedrooms. And I hope they will ask lots of questions! It looks like a lovely school and I’m really looking forward to meeting the girls and their teachers and parents and giving them a gift: permission to read.

The prize-giving speech is supposed to be twenty minutes of something light, inspirational and engaging for all ages. No small task! I’m going to talk about reading for pleasure and the power of readaxation. I’ll give everyone in the audience a postcard featuring a reading pledge for the holidays, encouraging and empowering children and adults (including me!) to read every day, to love doing so and to do it for all the lovely, noticeable benefits and pleasures that come from growing and nourishing our brains with books.

On the left you’ll see the front of the card. The back contains bits for readers of all ages to fill in, with a chance to choose their own desired benefits and record their pledge to themselves.

There is a fully photocopiable version of the whole thing here: MY HOLIDAY READING FOR PLEASURE PLEDGE and an article explaining it here.

I’ll emphasise that books are not like spinach (which we eat because we know we should rather than because we love it) but strawberries (which we eat regardless of how good they are for us). I’ll talk about the need to notice immediate benefits, not think about the longterm ones, which don’t usually change our behaviour. And I’ll get the audience to say what they like to get out of a book, as it’s important that we choose our own pleasures. So, a prize-giving speech with interaction and presents!

Three resources for parents and other adults:

  • I’ll mention a handout on my website, so I’ve put it here: BENEFITS OF READING FOR PLEASURE.
  • And I will also mention my Readaxation Diary.
  • For the science and evidence for the benefits of reading, see the Reading Brain section of my website. I will not be discussing the evidence in my talk – it’s supposed to be fun, fast and inspiring, not bogged down with evidence!

How to encourage reading for pleasure – a method for schools

One thing I won’t talk about – or maybe just mention in passing – is something I explain in training days for librarians: how to encourage readers (including reluctant ones) to read for pleasure. Here it is in very brief:

  1. Recognise that everyone takes different pleasures from any activity. Some readers love learning something; others like to be carried away by a story; some might enjoy a scary book and others want to laugh. Some want to read stories about familiar things, others want to be carried into different worlds or fantasy settings.

2. I suggest that parents (and teachers and librarians) discuss the possible benefits with young people so that readers can choose ones they like the sound of. After choosing 2-4 that appeal to them, readers then find a time and place to read and afterwards they see whether they notice the benefits they chose. Sometimes it’s necessary to pick a different book – we can all get that wrong sometimes and I do not think people should have to finish a book they aren’t enjoying. That’s not reading for pleasure, is it?

Here are some ideas of reading “benefits” that a reader might like:

  1. You can feel less stressed – your heart rate slows down
  2. You can switch off from worries
  3. It helps you get to sleep
  4. It gives you a quiet time to refresh your mind
  5. It helps you understand other people better
  6. It helps you face and understand difficult times
  7. It helps you know more about the world – including facts
  8. It improves imagination/creativity
  9. It exercises lots of areas of the brain
  10. It helps you succeed better at school subjects
  11. It increases your vocabulary
  12. It makes you a better writer
  13. It raises your confidence and self-esteem
  14. It helps you work through your own worries or problems
  15. It lets you feel emotions you want to feel
  16. It raises your spirits by making you laugh
  17. You can take risks and face adventures in a book while staying safe
  18. It makes your life feel better
  19. It makes you more open-minded and tolerant
  20. It lets you escape into another world for a while

Special note to parents

  1. It’s very tempting, because YOU know how important reading is, to push your children to read more and more difficult books or to criticise their choice in some way when they read books you think are too easy or that they’ve read to destruction. It’s really important not to! You can turn off a reluctant or hesitant reader like that. No one likes having their reading choice criticised and reading for pleasure is supposed to be just that: pleasure.
  2. Reading for pleasure is something we should all do. If you let your children see YOU prioritise reading yourself, they’ll pick up on that and take it as a message of human success and health. Be a reading family!

I hope the girls and parents and staff of Derwent Lodge School  – and every other school and family, and I – find lots of time to read for pleasure over the summer. There is nothing better you can do for your brain, your mental health and the brilliance of your mind!

Love your brain: love reading. Books grow minds: never stop growing yours.

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