The value of reading

World Book Day yesterday gave the school the opportunity to have a collective focus for the day, and my thanks especially to Mrs Edwards and Mrs Wilson for organising many of the events. We had a number of events, but 3 key events ran across the day. Many staff were dressed as their favourite characters from books, students in Year 7 and 8 had a book treasure hunt to match staff’s current reading with the list they had been given, and we read a short Roald Dahl story across the day to all year groups and then the students wrote a final chapter in period 5. The day created a lovely vibe, but more importantly facilitated those conversations about the value of books and reading.

At a personal level, I really enjoy reading, and I try to find time to read regularly despite the time pressures of the job (especially during term time). I spoke to students yesterday about the different types of books I like to read (history books, novels especially crime, and enough education books to be up to date), but also that I really enjoy reading random novels recommended by others. I have really found in the last few years that it is the best way to increase the diversity of my reading, rather than “playing safe”, alongside picking books by random book covers in Waterstones. It’s fascinating getting recommendations from people (or indeed giving them), and ascertaining whether they have matched the book well with me. If you take the book I am reading at the moment, ‘The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle’, it has become a slow burner. I have been reading it for about 2 months, I have started and finished other books inside that time, yet there is something I find intriguing about it still and find myself wanting to have the window to give it a real fresh momentum to do justice to the complexity of the storyline. However, it’s also odd because despite the ingredients (history, crime, mystery etc.) which ought to appeal to me, I have still not finished it. I probably just need to take the plunge and just finish it, but I guess that’s the risk of the diversity through recommendation strategy.

The point I make to my Year 8 reading club is that reading is a life skill for all, but also it is an essential if you are going to maximise your success in schools. As Harry S Truman (US President) said “not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers”; as a school, as parents, and as a society, we must remember that adage as we grow the next generation of leaders.

Finally a word about the tragic events last Friday evening. As the news breaks with headlines like “teenager stabbed in Romford”, it begins to evoke a range of emotions, including that immediate, instinctive response of “I hope it isn’t one of our students”, and you become drawn in to following the news. I was at the Sixth Form College on Thursday evening, and the atmosphere was unsurprisingly sombre, and those that knew Jodie spoke of what a lovely student she was, and you could feel the raw emotion of Paul Wakeling and his team. The events are deeply tragic, and too many young people have lost their lives recently on our streets, and I hope the government can reflect on both the long term causation of these events, but also the short term remedial actions that will allow communities to feel safe again. The thoughts of everyone at Marshalls Park go out to Jodie’s friends and families.

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