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A Day in the Life

What are you reading for?

I spoke to the school on Wednesday in assembly about the importance of reading.

It was prompted by two things – the first a memory of a stand-up routine where the comedian is sitting in a waffle house in Tennessee with a cup of coffee and a book and gets asked by the waitress, “What are you reading for?”

Not, “What are you reading?” but “What are you reading for?”

The stand-up routine continues with the waitress being savaged for asking such an ignorant question; the assembly withheld the comic abuse and instead explored some of the reasons why we might want to read. I came up with four, but I know others will be just as valid:

  • a desire to learn more about one of our interests;
  • a way to improve our vocabulary and writing, and ultimately enhance our success at school and in our careers;
  • relaxation at the end of the day, and an effective part of our night-time routine;
  • sheer enjoyment (for me the chance to read more is one of the highlights of any holiday).

As parents one of the greatest things we can do to support our children’s education is take an interest in their reading. For younger ones it might be reading to them or listening to them read before bedtime; for older children just asking about the books they are reading, and being seen to read and enjoy books ourselves. I don’t recall noticing what my parents read when I was young, but I do remember in my early teens being astonished to see my mother was reading Pride and Prejudice – I didn’t think anyone read those ‘old-fashioned’ books. Just seeing her read that certainly helped to change my attitude to literature.

The second prompt for the assembly was the generosity of one of my colleagues in passing on a book he had read that he thought I might be interested in. Nicely playing on the novel just mentioned, it was Pies and Prejudice by Stuart Maconie, ‘a love letter to the North of England’. I did enjoy it very much and when I said I would get it back to him he told me just to pass it on to someone else who might like it. I really appreciated that sentiment and have both passed on that book and another one of my own I had just finished.

I have asked all the boys to think about doing something similar – pick a book off the shelf and give it to a friend or family member who might enjoy it. Parents, I’m sure they would appreciate you passing on a book that you enjoyed – particularly if you can recall reading it at around their age. And you might tell them both what you are reading and what you are reading for.