16 Dec Keep Reading this Winter Break
The last few days have been cold, wet and windy up here on the hillside, and most of us are looking forward to getting down to lower altitudes and warmer climates. The winter vacations are an important time for us all, not just to escape the most severe of our Himalayan weather, but to spend quality time with friends and family, relax and unwind.
Words and pages can disrupt your world view, changing your perspective, emotionally and intellectually.
Once we’ve had a chance to shake-off the last few hectic weeks of this decade however, it’s important that we don’t take our foot off the gas too much. Summer learning loss – which in our case translates to winter learning loss – is a phenomenon where students can lose ground academically over long breaks in the school year. Like a muscle, the brain risks losing gains if we stop exercising it. The good news is that one of the best ways to combat this slide is also one of life’s most enjoyable leisure activities – reading.
Open the pages of a good book and you unlock a portal to another world. Words and pages can disrupt your world view, changing your perspective, emotionally and intellectually. They can transport you through time and space, and let you see through someone else’s lens with a degree of understanding and empathy that other media just can’t replicate. A picture tells a thousand words but you’re always going to be an onlooker. If you really want to get into someone else’s head, then reading is the way in.
Books are the original virtual reality simulator, and the capacity to experience and process realities beyond our own translates to how we interact socially in real life.
Research by psychologist Diana Tamir from the Princeton Social Neuroscience Lab has suggested that reading fiction can improve individuals’ social cognitive abilities, stimulating activity in the areas of the brain involved in simulating what others are thinking. Books are the original virtual reality simulator, and the capacity to experience and process realities beyond our own translates to how we interact socially in real life, developing how we understand how others are feeling. This ability alone is something that the world can never have enough of.
Last week I introduced Maus by Art Spiegelman as this year’s One-Book Woodstock, a book that should be on every student’s reading list this vacation. In itself this brutally thought-provoking work of art, widely hailed as the greatest graphic novel ever, will make for compelling reading. But as with many things in life, reading is often at its most joyful when you’re not required to do it. So, this winter break, encourage your children to read not only the books they have to, but the books they will love. Just a few hours each week can help to prevent potential learning loss. Share the stories you cherished at their age, read together, let them loose in a bookshop. Once you get them started, you may find that the only problem you have is how to get them to put that book down!
Dr Craig Cook, Principal