“There’s more to life than books you know, but not much more”
Smiths fans will recognise Morrisey’s line from ‘Handsome Devil’. He was absolutely right. According to research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, reading for pleasure at the age of 15 is a strong factor in determining future social mobility. It was also found to be the most important indicator of the future success of the child. Crucially, the research distinguished between reading for its own sake and reading as a result of external persuasion or for a specific purpose. Recent PISA data shows that reading for enjoyment is associated with reading proficiency: a crucial difference between students who perform well in the PISA reading assessment and those who perform poorly lies in whether they read daily for enjoyment, rather than in how much time they spend reading. On average, students who read daily for enjoyment score the equivalent of one-and-a-half years of schooling better than those who do not.
All of this suggests that young people who read for pleasure are predisposed, not only to reading but to learning in general – which would probably explain the increased social mobility findings.
The message is clear: we need to encourage young people to read for pleasure. But this is easier said than done. Statistics show a decline in the number of school students who read for pleasure. It is an ever-present challenge for parents and teachers to come up with reading materials that are interesting and relevant for young people.
The English Department at BHHS work tirelessly on this, in lessons and beyond in Book Club and a hugely rich Firefly presence. Yesterday they led the school’s celebrations for World Book Day. We welcomed brilliant Brighton author, Simon Packham, to take our assembly and to run a workshop with our Y8 and 9 girls. Ms Dean, our Librarian, supports girls’ reading with excellent suggestions and encourages then to take part in a wide range of reading award schemes and challenges. However, we all have a responsibility to encourage girls to read for pleasure and to model this ourselves.
Recently I’ve been reading The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon. For a fogey like me, who grew up in the Seventies, it’s a wonderful nostalgia trip, but I’d also recommend it highly to our girls as part detective story, part coming of age novel where two ten year old girls decide to investigate the disappearance of a neighbour from their street.