Why daily reading matters more than ever

Reading continues to be a powerful developmental activity for students explains Paul Stewart, English Co-ordinator at Wadhurst.

Our students’ attention is constantly being pulled towards media that is designed to be incredibly seductive. Gone are the days when computer games were crude, pixelated affairs that relied heavily on our imaginations. Today, the senses are saturated with sound, colour, movement and photorealistic graphics – a level of immersion unrivalled to this point in history.

In a day and age when students can put on a headset and become part of a 360-degree environment, how can the humble book compare? The fact is, the power of reading comes from the kind of thinking it encourages. Particularly in the digital age, I believe in the book’s ability to foster mental agility and creativity in students, and to empower them throughout their lives.

Books give us the chance to design a world on our own along with numerous opportunities to fill in the gaps inherent in any narrative. With the hints the author gives us, we must construct what characters look like and how vistas appear. We are required to invent, iterate and imagine. Today’s video games and other digital platforms rarely provide room for invention. There is no embellishment required, or even possible.

This scope for creation and elaboration is what keeps us returning to the book in an age of fast-developing new media. When we read, we do not just in the present moment; we are in a state of flux – we stand on a shifting landscape of hypotheses. We must constantly ask ourselves: Will the story go the expected way or the road less travelled? We return to books because we want to see whether our hypotheses are correct. We’re either validated or surprised, but either way, it’s a win for our imaginative capacities.

Alongside this encouragement of flexible thinking, the habit of reading also creates a secure place we can return to when life becomes challenging. The investment books require takes our minds off stress, and stimulates our ideas. Eventually, reading becomes a practice we turn to almost without thinking. In other words, reading creates a rhythm that marks the metre of our experiences.

For all these reasons, I believe the practice of daily reading should be present in all schools, modelled by teachers and older students, and echoed at home. Consistency between the world of school and the world of home is essential because it means our students are receiving the same single message from multiple sources. And, long after students have left a school’s sphere of influence, reading will be a constant, fixed point in a rapidly changing world.

Paul Stewart English Co-ordinator at Wadhurst

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