A Year of Reading: Kindling a Love of Books

In Dr Kornel Kossuth’s sixth post for us as he continues on in his challenge to promote reading for pleasure during the school day, he discusses the importance of instilling a love of books in our children.

There are so many ways in which desperate parents and teachers try to get reluctant readers to read. It is maybe a sign of the times that when we have a problem, we throw technology at it. More often than not I find myself advising audiobooks as an easy way into stories and subsequently (hopefully) reading. However, the panacea of the moment seems to be the kindle (or any other reading device – I am not an Amazon). The theory must be that today’s children love gadgets and screens, so if you can combine the screen with reading, it must work.

When you look into a reading class at my school, you will see quite a few reading devices (all internet disabled), and the pupils seem to enjoy reading from them. I have one pupil who has become my dictionary, as he always looks up words I ask the class on his kindle and then announces them to the class (that the definitions are often harder to understand than the original word is by-the-by). He seems to have a real love for his electronic book and can see its uses.

Having had a kindle for more than six years now, I am increasingly skeptical about the thing. Of course, it’s great to take to the gym as I can then read while cycling. It also comes into its own when reading The Count of Monte Cristo or other short and light classics: instead of having to hold a good 1000 pages, the kindle always weighs the same.

But I prefer reading from a book.

Books are physical and have beautiful covers. I can still remember the pictures on covers of books I have not seen for years. There is something in a good cover that makes you want to have the book and read it. Many a book judged by its cover has turned out to be disappointing (what a life lesson there is in that!), but the cover nevertheless remains remembered (another, wholly separate lesson).

There is something about turning a page, progressing in slow steps that an electronic reader cannot match, for all the swipe action and %-progress reports. Also try flicking through an e-book: it doesn’t work and so finding certain passages becomes harder. Browsing is simply not possible in the same uncomplicated, but immersive way.

Finally, I find I remember less when reading from a kindle. When reading I will often remember whereabouts on a page a certain passage was. This retention of layout is completely lost on an electronic reading device and the book becomes just text rather than a painstakingly set story, where spacing, font and appearance on the page all contribute to make it special.

So, are kindles any good? Undoubtedly. But can they replace books as testimonies to a love of the written word? No.

Therefore I think it is our duty, as teachers of English, pace marketing and technology, to instill a love not just of reading, but also of books in our children.

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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