Read for Good work experience student Laura Young shares her experience of reading for pleasure.

Having just completed my GCSEs, I decided to do a week of work experience at Read for Good. It appealed to me because there are a variety of different interesting roles in the charity. Although I have never done a Readathon at my school, I am enthusiastic about the idea and I encourage people to take part in one. I think it’s great to get reluctant readers involved because it encourages you to read whatever you like: it doesn’t even have to be a book. It wasn’t until I started my work experience that I even contemplated the idea that you can be a dedicated reader without actually reading any books. For example, you could read newspapers, blogs, joke books and even catalogues!

Compared to my experience of primary school, reading at secondary school has taught me a lot more. Yes, I can recite quote after quote from Macbeth, and explain to you in thorough detail, where William Golding found each little bit of inspiration for “Lord of the Flies.” However,  that doesn’t mean that I personally, nor any of my classmates, were inspired to read more after this, or take away any life-long lessons which could help in the future.

At primary school, we never really had to study any books in this much detail but we did study some. One of my favourite memories of English in primary school was after we read “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde. Reflecting on the story, we each interpreted it to design a matchbox that mirrored the message of the story; comparing what the statue in the story looked like on the outside to his inside. This encouraged us to use our reading skills to stretch our imagination, as opposed to squeezing our knowledge into writing an  essay which could suck the joy out of the story that the vast majority of the class had first experienced.

I can still hear the outcries of horror when we were given homework on the first day of year seven, different to the weekly piece of homework from primary school. Of course, after a few months, we had got used to this. Our piles of homework grew and grew so that we barely had any time for the out-of-school hobbies that we used to. Sparseness of time in secondary school hugely impacts teenagers’ lives. Their work consumes them so they lack the time and enthusiasm that many of the same pupils used to spend reading. Not to mention the fact that, when they do have to read a set text in school, they are likely to have to study it in such detail that it is no longer enjoyable.

Almost every lesson throughout the different schooling stages involves some sort of reading. This varies from classic literature, to scientific theories and recipe books. People tend to read a lot more than they think and I think that schools fail to teach pupils that reading any sort of text, no matter how long, and how many pictures they go with, counts as reading.  Personally, I started to love reading when I first read the Garfield comics. Some people say they love English lessons, however some say they hate it and I think this is probably largely to do with what books we are encouraged to read. The English curriculum seems to look down on people who read magazines and comics. Secondary school teaches both English Language and Literature and it does vary fiction and non-fiction, nevertheless, I personally think that the  perspective on each is sometimes restricted.

One of the great joys of participating in a Readathon is that pupils  can read whatever they want, regardless of what the teachers think about it. What they choose to read should inspire them, and not drain their enthusiasm for the sake of one test. This means that children can see reading in a more positive, different and interesting light which will, hopefully, stick with them for the rest of their lives. 

Laura Young