71st Bookweek

‘Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or a duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift’.

– Children’s fiction author Kate DiCamillo.

Last week the Children’s Book Council of Australia celebrated its 71st Book Week. I was drawn to wonder whether, after 71 years, this is still relevant today. In asking myself this question, I am aware that to many people, Book Week is merely a ‘dress-up day’!

At SCOTS PGC College, we do see reading as a precious gift, I feel, and as such should celebrate and acknowledge this gift. We are fortunate to have excellent reading resources, passionate staff, a strong curriculum connection, an enviable fiction and non-fiction collection, reading challenges, Book Week parades where we focus upon acknowledging ‘book characters’ over dress-ups and, the most important ingredient, the combination of our staff, students and families who tirelessly work together.

Each and every day is filled with opportunities to expand our reading horizons, whether this is within large or small groups, during breaks, in classrooms, inquiry spaces or in warm and cosy reading places, such as the popular reading pit in the WALEC.

Building individual reading skills and habits is so important, as are the benefits children receive from being read to.

As the cleverly named Paige Turner blogged on The Literacy Site, reading together:

  • builds relationships, creating deeper bonds between child and parent;
  • provides new experiences, awareness building about the world outside home;
  • improves communication, building greater vocabulary, speech patterns and enunciation;
  • improves concentration, story time providing an ideal incentive to build concentration; and builds a lifetime love of books!

A piece written by Wisconsin State Senator Julie Lassa states: ‘no skill is more important to a child’s development than reading. Even in our digital age, reading is still essential for communication and learning, and children who learn to love reading have a pastime that will engage their imaginations and intellects for the rest of their lives’.

Any article around books and reading today also brings a question about ‘books and screens’. I understand and appreciate all comments and concerns surrounding the screens vs paper issue. However, I know, as stated in the Brightly Newsletter, ‘electronic devices are here to stay’. The newsletter authors go on to put forward the question that, rather than discussing which is better, we should be seeking how we may best utilise both to better support our students.

I was drawn to their thinking about how this may look. They feel that in their early years, boys and girls should spend more time with old-fashioned books.  A tactile experience with no distractions, whilst for independent readers it may be more important that they just keep reading, whether via screen or book.

With data showing the number of people reading for pleasure on a daily or longer term basis is decreasing, perhaps this holds true?

Nonetheless, I think I have answered my initial question. Yes, we should come together to celebrate the wonders of reading, books and strange book characters!

Mr Simon Edgar – Head of Junior and Middle School