Reading Pays Off For Life

The benefits of being a reader and developing a reading habit for children are very well documented. I’m interested to see this news from a study carried out at Yale University – being a reader is associated with living a longer life;

Times of India report – People Who Read Books May Live Longer

I’m guessing that the link is to do with the fact that those who practice sufficient self discipline to incorporate reading in to their busy lives also have that bit more self discipline when it comes to other aspects that impact on longevity (such as sleep, diet etc.) I also suspect that these are people who, on average, live more purposeful lives, whether driven by goals or less tangible ideas flowing out of the fact that they are continually exposing themselves to new ideas of others though their reading.

Whatever the reasons for the association ……. I’m off to enjoy a good book now.

Educators Sharing Best Practices Around The World

There really isn’t a need, today, for any educator to feel isolated, or to believe that he/ she must reinvent the wheel. Of course, educators can be just as guilty as any other profession of falling foul of NIH (Not Invented Here!). This is the idea that a ‘solution’ may work in one place, but wouldn’t work in OUR place, because it doesn’t comply to ‘the way we do things around here.’

As i said, every profession can fall guilty of this. However, strong introspection and a willingness to challenge ourselves and our assumptions can address the issue. When we see an idea that’s working somewhere else, we need to come at it from the other direction – is there a possibility that I could make that work in our environment? This enables a greater degree of ‘possibility thinking’ and openness, rather than shutting down on ideas and innovations before they’ve been tried.

Here is a brilliant example of this at work. Throughout my three years working in UAE I was very aware that one of the weak or vulnerable areas is considered to be the way that the Arabic language is taught. The methods have tended to be very conventional, very traditional and rote based and are considered incompatible with the approaches of most progressive schools and educators. As a result, all sorts of issues arise for children who are being taught all their other subjects in more advanced learner-centric ways, but are confronted in the language classroom by teachers who haven’t changed their pedagogy adequately. They feel it to a far greater extent because of the contrast. Also, student motivation gets severely strained by the strong early emphasis on writing and character production.

Over the last month I have been confronted with evidence here that similar issues are talked about for the teaching of the Malaysian language and Chinese in the International schools. So, I was delighted to see this article – evidence of the UAE teachers coming out of their shells, ready to open up to new possibilities and new ways of approaching the craft of language teaching;

The National – UAE – Arabic teachers Told Children Learn Languages Better With Hand Signals

The article concerns a conference that took place in Dubai, where teachers of the Arabic language were exposed to evidence and examples of what teachers are doing in other parts of the world when teaching languages. The obvious implication being that what was working in one place, in relation to one language, can be adapted and made to work elsewhere for another language.

As with so many things, there are way more things that make us similar than make us different. This acknowledgement of our innate ‘sameness’ can lead to greater learning from elsewhere about the most effective ways to teach languages and this can only benefit young learners.

Make Reading Cool For Boys

There comes an age at which boys today seem to decide that books and reading are not ‘cool enough’ and even the most enthusiastic reader may just switch off completely – with all the implications that go with that. I’ve seen this myself, both with my own son, but also with many other boys. Somehow, the perception is that books and magazines (or even online text, e-books etc) can’t compete with the ultra-stimulation of games, video and other choices for how time is spent.

In my son’s experience one of the issues was that he moved very quickly through all the good quality reading material that appealed to him, but by the time he reached around age 13 there was very little left that attracted him. How many times can you read the same Harry Potter books over and over again? As a parent, to watch someone who was streets ahead of his peers at a skill as valuable as reading then basically spinning his wheels as they all slowly caught him up – an advantage turned in to nothing special.

Here’s an interesting article that explores ways that can be tried to get boys to want to engage with reading:

Early to Rise – How To Get Boys To Read
(Click on the link to read the article. Incidentally, the Early to Rise newsletter emails are well worth signing up for – I’ve been reading them for quite a few years and they’re amongst the best around)

It tends to be the case that the vast majority of school libraries have female librarians. I think, at times, they need to have a greater variety of approaches if they are to make libraries and reading appeal to the boys. I agree very strongly with the article that we need a much broader acceptability of what kids are reading and to meet boys’ needs with material that they find stimulating and will want to read. It doesn’t pay to get too judgmental about what they choose to read!

Finally, I think the article’s spot on – if there’s cool status associated with reading, then there’s a much better chance that more boys will stay with it – with all the benefits that flow out of that. I know how much reading has benefited my life. I cannot ever envisage being anything other than a reader. But, I also know that’s no great advert to a 14 year old boy! However, meeting them where they are, we can do a much better job for them.

Leaders are Readers

I truly believe that in an ever faster changing world, the readers are destined to be the winners. Further, I think it’s vitally important to reinforce that the real knowledge we need to access doesn’t come through popular daily mass media; newspapers, magazines etc. or from TV.

So, as educators I believe we really need to be doing all in our power to ensure that children develop reading books as a natural pattern of their regular daily actions. For this, they need to develop great reading habits and the earlier they start these the better the chances that they will maintain those habits in their adult life. Sadly, a bit too often for comfort I hear parents who put the onus on schools to devel the reading habit in their children, or who bemoan the fact that the child isn’t a stronger reader, but who admit that they don’t read on a regular basis themselves. The excuse, nvariably, is @I don’t have the time.”

So, I was interested to come across this article looking at adult reading habits, triggered by recent pronouncements from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg (who’s certainly way busier than you or me!) It makes clear – this is a habit we can build in to our adult lives if we just acknowledge its importance and put in the effort. However, I don’t think we should underestimate how challenging it would be for anyone who doesn’t naturally have the habit.

Here’s the article:
Fast Company – Why You Should Read 50 Books This Year

Which is why I am really keen to see more students in schools developing the habit early. part of this, I believe, is to encourage them to read for pleasure as much as for learning. Fiction opens up the mind in different ways to non fiction that tends to expand one’s knowledge. Books in the home are a valuable investment. We now know, or at least suspect according to recent research I’ve highlighted in other articles, that sleep patterns get disturbed by watching screens in the last hour before bed. So, what better alternative than to get your child to switch off the TV/ iPad/ computer an hour before bed and pick up a book?

When your child has been reading, it’s great for their thinking and language development to ask questions about the reading, how it made them feel, the messages nderlying the story etc. It also brings a sense of togetherness and bonding.

I have long had a habit that at any particular time I have two books I’m reading simultaneously – one fiction and one non fiction. Right now I’m reading “A strangeness in my mind”, the latest novel from Nobel Literature Prize winner Orhan Pamuk – a deep and thoughtful read. The non fiction is “Creative Schools” by educator, Sir Ken Robinson – I’ll maybe write more on that when I finish it.

Happy Reading !!!!

MBA – RIP

The MBA as a qualification is in serious trouble. The best ones cost a fortune to obtain whilst the weaker ones really aren’t worth the cost of the print on the certificate. I’m always interested in good book/ reading lists, so was very happy when I came across this one – a list of alternative books to read over a year that will give you everything an MBA could give, at a fraction of the cost.

The Hustle – Read These Books Instead of an MBA

Three of the books on the list I’ve already read (though one such a long time ago it’s due a re-read). Two others were already on my ‘to be read soon’ list, so now a few more get added.

I think, though the article doesn’t say it specifically, the value compared to doing an MBA from reading these books won’t come from just simply a passive skimmed read. I think it needs to be a far more engaged, active process, probably involving making notes after each chapter – especially where the ideas generated can be linked to direct experiences professionally.

We all get a bit of free time around this time of year – a good idea to spend at least a bit of it reading to enrich our minds.

Article: Reading a novel exercises ‘muscles’ in the brain, researchers find

Reading a novel exercises ‘muscles’ in the brain, researchers find

http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-reading-a-novel-makes-muscles-in-the-brain-researchers-find-20140103,0,6975108.story

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20 All-Time Best Children’s Books

Thanks to the friend who brought this list to my attention – the Daily Telegraph selecting the 20 best children’s books, when I’ve recently written about ways to encourage children to read.

Telegraph Best Books

To me the biggest disappointment was to see ‘Alice in Wonderland’ left out of the list. What others do you think might have been included, keeping in mind this is a UK-centric list.

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