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If you want children to be intelligent …

As September makes a welcome appearance and our thoughts concern the return to school and the exciting new term ahead it is good to muse upon the art of reading. It is an underestimated skill the older you become. Everyone does it. You are doing it now as you read this Blog but why is the art of reading so special? It is useful to note the words of the famous Albert Einstein; “If you want children to be intelligent read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent read them more fairy tales”. Reading fiction opens our minds and fires up the imagination. By wanting to know what happens next and predict the behaviour of fascinating  characters all sorts of skills are being activated in the human brain.

Reading underpins success and especially with the age of our young children, it is also key to accessing problem solving questions in maths and higher level thinking activities in literacy.  Teachers at St Christopher’s believe in the importance of reading and many of our staff are avid readers themselves. Their enthusiasm for reading is infectious and they are skilled at decoding books and sharing their interpretations of the author’s meaning by quoting from the book in question with an underlying drive to encourage each child to share their own interpretation of the book too and engage in discussion.  My daughter remembers her teacher giving her ten year old self a book to read saying, ‘I think you will really enjoy this’. She did and returned to the teacher later that week to thank her, tell her why she enjoyed the book and present the teacher with one of her favourites announcing bravely ‘I think you will enjoy this one’. One can only imagine the teacher’s gentle surprise at this act but to her absolute credit she went away and read the book and also thanked my daughter and explained why she had enjoyed the book!

Literacy is so much harder to mark and grade than maths. There is seldom a ‘correct’ and narrow answer. How do you develop creative writing in the young and encourage the use of a rich vocabulary and colourful imagery?  The answer lies in exposure to books. Einstein was right. We can all remember the special person who introduced us to a book that became a favourite whether it is a parent, sibling, relative or indeed teacher. If we close our eyes and imagine the book we might even have retained the voice of the reader.  For me it is my father reading me Treasure Island.  Don’t underestimate the power and importance of reading to your child. As autumn leads to winter and you find increasing amounts of time to curl up with the family, don’t just reach for the TV control. Get out a favourite book and pass it on to the next generation. British author Neil Gaiman has done research on the importance  of reading to your children and has worked with the Reading Agency to promote this vital education. I will leave the last few words of my Blog to him:

“We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting and not to stop reading to them just because they are learning to read themselves. Use reading aloud time as bonding time when no phones are being checked, when the distractions of the world are put aside”.

If your child wants to come and recommend a book to me, I promise I will read it.  Happy reading!

Annie Thackray