Reading, an essential skill

In the home, as in the school, example is a far more powerful influence than mere precept. Children are good copy cats, so where mother, father or other adult in a home reads with obvious enjoyment, a youngster in that home enjoys a distinct advantage over his fellow student who does not benefit from this kind of example.

In the latter case, reading may well be considered a chore, something which one is obliged to do in certain circumstances, rather than a stimulating, enjoyable activity. Reading allows one to make contact with the best of the worlds minds, past and present, so that ones thinking processes can be sharpened and ones capacity for critical examination of issues can also be enhanced. In fact there are all sorts of spill-off benefits to be derived from reading, over and above the intrinsic enjoyment resulting from this activity. Some of these are gradual widening of ones intellectual horizons, gaining new concepts, increasing ones vocabulary and acquiring a better understanding of oneself, of ones community and of the society and the world in which one lives.

The quality of life that you have after your have left school is dependent upon your ability to read. One is likely to be severely handicapped and at a serious disadvantage if one is unable to read, something that all teachers and parents as well, need to bear in mind. Therefore, to ensure that all our youngsters are able to read with facility and understanding along with acquiring a love for reading, is one our biggest and most challenging tasks, and one that deserves our greatest and most determined efforts.

Several hundred years ago Sir Francis Bacon recognised the importance of being able to read and emphasised this in his comment that ‘reading maketh a full man & and writing an exact man’. Linking the two activities was a real inspiration, for we not only need to be able to benefit from the thoughts of others expressed in writing, but we often need to convey our own thoughts to others to whom we may not be able to speak directly, and this we can do in writing. Writing is therefore also a necessary skill in todays world and we need to ensure that our children and youth acquire the ability to write clearly, grammatically and idiomatically. As with other skills, the only way in which youngsters can acquire this one is through practice, so insistence on competence in writing English is a necessary and important component in any schools programme of learning activities.

So far as reading itself is concerned, Internet technology has enormously extended the scope of what is readily available to us. Excellent reading resources are likely to be found even in relatively small national libraries, including works by non-English writers such as Cervantes Don Quixote or Dostoevskys The Brothers Karamazov, together with a wide range of English writing, such as Chaucers Canterbury Tales, Shakespeares works, Miltons Paradise Lost, Tennysons Idylls of the King, Derek Walcotts Omeros and even Aesops Fables. However, the Internet also makes some relatively uncommon resources readily accessible. There one can find and enjoy Abraham Lincolns Gettysburg Address or Martin Luther Kings very moving I have a dream speech. It does even more than this, providing immediate access to information and records not readily available in many libraries, such as the revealing autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, which tells the dreadful and heart-rending story of how he was kidnapped from his home and village by fellow Africans and sold into slavery to the Europeans. The biography also records his hardships and some later experiences, including learning English and his subsequent outspoken advocacy of the abolition of slavery.

This kind of information is most valuable as it helps to dismiss some of the myths about the slave trade which is often presented as one in which the Whites alone were at fault, ignoring completely the active and significant contributory role frequently played by Blacks themselves in capturing and selling their fellow Blacks to the European traders. The Internet makes this information readily available and allows the ordinary reader to see the slave trade, with all its manifest evils, in true perspective, and this is important in helping us to separate myth from reality.

Finally, the Internet provides ready access to the worlds leading newspapers and to important journals with current and up to date information. All this and much more is there for the edification of those who can read. These resources are all important for, as Sir Francis Bacon long ago put it so succinctly, Reading maketh a full man.