I recently travelled to Italy and Scotland. My children travelled independently to New York and Chicago. The younger two also travelled with my husband to a school in England - Hogwarts it was called. Ahh, now you see what I’m doing. Physically, we’ve travelled no further than the Mornington Peninsula (grr, Covid!). But through reading, we have had so many worlds opened to us. And not just worlds, but lives and experiences.
There is much we can take from the story of the 'Tower of Babel' in Genesis 11. However, one key element is the power of language. While the people were divided because of their intention, the powerful ability of language resonates through this story. Jesus used stories and parables to communicate deeper truths, and God has given us the gift of creativity, including the writing of stories, poems, plays, and non-fiction texts. The reading of such texts is a wonderful treasure we have been given.
In a couple of months I will submit my PhD thesis. My research has looked in part at the role of text teaching in the English classroom. Study of texts in the classroom enables students to develop an understanding of human experience – to travel in the shoes and experiences of people and situations. Students can learn about historical or current events from the safety and comfort of their own couch, and deepen awareness of different social and cultural contexts. Reading texts can guide them to develop empathy for others as they navigate the challenges and experiences of characters in novels or non-fiction texts. They can work through the choices and concerns faced by characters, and reflect on the consequences of these. Reading expands minds, imaginations, the sense of what is possible. This is not only confined to the English classroom – children’s self-selected reading facilitates all of these, just as our own reading as adults fulfils them for us too.
Of course, texts do not have to always be serious or informative. Developing in our children the joy of reading is a gift in itself – just as I enjoy a romance or historical novel that takes me away from some of the pressures in my life, so to do children enjoy the silly antics of cats in hats, or adventures with time machines, or ninja kids. At MECS, we want our students to enjoy reading and stories, in whatever form that takes. For some students that may be graphic novels, or audiobooks – whatever gets them loving reading is the right type of text for them, and will likely lead to other forms and genres later on.
No matter their age, from our little friends in the kinder to our senior students, you can support your child with their reading.
(currently reading ‘The Godmothers’ by Monica McInerney and ‘The School for Talking Pets’ by Kelli Anne Hawkins with my nine-year-old)