Don’t ask me who has influenced me…

Don’t ask me who has influenced me.  A lion is made up from all of the lambs he’s digested and I have been reading all my life…” Charles de Gaulle

At the start of any year, be it calendar or academic, we are encouraged to make resolutions.  Some last, others don’t. Most years I pledge solemnly to im-prove my handwriting. Before long I have reverted to a crabbed scrawl.  This year might be different, only time and commitment will tell.

Ten years ago a group of authors, medical professionals and educationalists wrote an open letter to The Guardian newspaper warning that many British schools spent too little time on outdoor play, limited pupil directed learn-ing and were over reliant on computers.  This week the same forty signatories resent their letter to The Guardian (1)  alerting the world to the dangers of what they term toxic childhood (2). This comes at a time when another educa-tionalist bemoans the demise of the Christmas thank-you letter (3).  Again there is a suggestion that screens might be playing a major part in this particular malaise.

Some might say that this would pose a problem for a school like the BSP which makes use of iPads in particu-lar.  Whilst high profile commentary on the use of tech-nology gives us pause for thought, it doesn’t change the School’s approach to blending the best that technology has to offer with more traditional approaches to learning. We fully expect children to spend time out of doors, they learn through discovery and we also put store by formal testing.  The key is balance.

One element of this wide debate centres on the demise of reading as a pursuit.  Some blame the influence of computer games, just as TV was seen as the distraction from reading in my generation.  As Headmaster I am proud of our libraries, they are well stocked, vibrant and exciting places.  They have a wide variety of books as well as audio books and DVDs.  Our library staff are knowledgeable and enthusiastic.  But do we as a community read enough? Losing oneself in a book is a singular experience and one which I would hope all of our pupils enjoy on a regular basis.

It is a widely accepted idea that young people follow the behaviour that is modelled by the adults around them, in other words if we as adults aren’t seen by children read-ing it is unlikely that they will spend time reading.  So, do we as adults prioritise our screens over the printed word from time to time? Do we find the time to get lost in our reading?

So, back to the whole resolution thing, a resolution that we might just be able to keep is to be a reading role model this year. Does this mean no screens until next year?  No, of course not.  But we might be wise to consider our own reading habits and to pledge to a book a month this year. More importantly, will you make time to read with your children, to discuss their reading and yours and above all enjoy spending time with the printed word? That might just be a resolution worth keeping.

Nicholas Hammond


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