A Year of Reading: Holiday reading

In Dr Kornel Kossuth’s fourth post for us as he continues on in his challenge to promote reading for pleasure during the school day, he discusses holiday reading, and why it’s important to take the time to read with your children this Christmas.

Rather than let their children have a rest during the holidays and learn through various non-curricular activities (there is so much to learn from, say, bird-watching), many parents seek out teachers to ask for holiday work. Not a fan of setting such work (not least because someone will probably have to mark it, i.e. I), English conveniently offers me the opportunity to say the children should read.

And though that may sound like a cop-out, avid readers of this blog will know that it’s not. Reading is fundamental to English, to being able to express oneself, and to life.

So, what should children read? What is the ideal Christmas reading list?

The answer is very simple: anything. It doesn’t matter all too much, what the children read (as long as it has some literary pretence, so is written in a way that uses language well). The main thing is that they are reading, that they engage with the written word every day. They should read a book that grabs their imagination and attention and that challenges them just a little, so that they can learn new words, new sentence constructions, new ways of presenting stories. When I was nine, for instance, I read non-fiction books with large pictures in them and not too much text. I devoured these books, from The World of Speed to The Midnight World, from technology to nature. Simple as they were, these little Piccolo books instilled a love of books (I still have them) and reading in me that transferred like any infection worth its salt to fiction and more serious and grown-up books. I’ve never stopped reading since then.

And if parents really want to help their children, they should get involved in the book, ask their children the meaning of some words, ask them what is going on, ask them why they think certain things are happening, thus strengthening vocabulary, summarising and inference.

What will I be reading? Well, some classic literature (Shakespeare’s Sonnets or the Kalevala spring to mind), some job-related book (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Teachers) and an easy-going thriller or similar (Ice or Farewell, My Lovely) is probably what I’ll go for. Whatever I end up reading – I am looking forward to the time the holidays give me to relax in an armchair, by the fire, with a good book on my lap.

Kornel Kossuth has loved English since a young age and began teaching it to children ten years ago. Before turning to teaching, he was a lawyer and (briefly) a diplomat. A published poet, poetry busker and poetry blogger, he is also the author of a number of English resources and is currently working on textbooks for years 7 and 8.

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