Encouraging students to read – Year 7

A message from Headmaster Michael Parker.

At Newington we continue to be committed to keeping (or getting) your son reading. We believe all three features of the ‘inspired mind’ in our wyvern – curiosity, open-mindedness and rigour – are best fed by a bunch of books.

Reading is its own reward – it powers imagination and empathy for others. It also fundamentally helps with other skills such as writing development, vocabulary and the very act of concentrating properly (it is certainly a more sustained use of leisure time than doom-scrolling through TikTok or Instagram). There are so many studies that show reading is a key part of educational development that it is almost a truism.

Getting kids to read is tougher than it was a decade or a generation ago (and it was pretty tough then). In most cases it will take a joint effort between us – the school and the home.

What we are doing about it

We have a ‘Headmaster’s reading list’ with about 70 books that I think will really appeal to teenagers (and that I have read myself; please see the Year 7 list below). We have a dozen or 20 copies of each book, so that plenty of them can be borrowed and still leave plenty available in the library.

We have refitted the upstairs part of the library to make borrowing and reading these books even easier.

Today during Period 3, our Senior Prefect Aiden Carter, Deputy Senior Prefect Ryan McPhail and I spoke to your sons about the importance of reading books and spruiked about a dozen books from the list. Each boy filled out a sheet, which you will also find at the bottom of this letter, saying which books he would like to read this year.

Then the books were made available to borrow in the library. Wide reading will be booked in regularly to the library this year during English classes to return, borrow and read these books. Of course, boys are every bit as welcome to read some of the other thousands of books in the library or books from anywhere else.

What you can do about it (doing all of them is great, and doing some of them is much better than doing none)

  • At the dinner table tonight, or over the next few days, you could follow up by asking about the books we spoke about.
  • You could find or maintain a dedicated time for your son to read. The best time is often the last half hour or hour before bedtime.
  • Put their phone somewhere else for this time. I can’t stress this enough. If they can’t live without their phone for this hour, have a chat to the phone version of Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • You could read some of the books yourself, or be seen reading your own books, so that your son sees it as a family habit.

Reading as a part of a balanced life is as or more important than it has been for centuries. It is a legacy to your children and to our students. I hope we all are able to make a difference to how much and what they read.

Go well and good luck,

Michael Parker

The Maze Runner – James Dashner
Gone – Michael Grant
Scythe – Neil Shusterman
Uglies – Scott Westerfield
Stormbreaker – Anthony Horowitz
The Recruit – Robert Muchamore
Boy – Roald Dahl
The Darwin Awards – Wendy Northcutt
Detention – Tristan Bancks
The Power of One – Bryce Courtenay
The Sidekicks – Will Kostakis
The Dark is Rising – Susan Cooper
Ranger’s Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan – John Flanagan
Skullduggery Pleasant – Derek Landy

Published on 9 February 2022