A pleasurable summer activity – “Not All Readers are High Achievers, But All High Achievers are Readers”
The idea of me reading some fiction story about witchcraft and some silly magic was just not something I could possibly have contemplated. That was until one of my sixteen-year-old students spoke about her fascination with the Harry Potter books, and that was after the third book came out a few years ago. Somehow, I reluctantly bought a copy of that book and, before I’d finished reading the first chapter, I decided I must stop reading and put that book away. This was so that I could get the first and second books and read those first as I did not want to miss out the first part of the story. I ended up getting hooked and became an aficionado of the Harry Potter books. Years later, I somehow managed to infect my son with the passion of reading JK Rowling’s series and by the time he was about 11 or so, he had read all the Harry Potter books. I was not so successful in persuading my daughter to read Harry Potter, but she found other books that interested her and read those.
What I find most refreshing about reading is the escapism, and that is not to begin to mention the most obvious benefits such as developing a wider range of vocabulary and being a better writer. There is a rather interesting phrase that I read somewhere which says something like “Rich people have a big library and poor people have a big TV”. This is a rather broad generalisation and is not completely accurate. However, there is an element of truth in that. I would actually like to turn that phrase around and apply it to teenagers and my own version is “clever teenagers have lots of books and dumb teenagers have better smartphones”. Again, not accurate in the real world but the point I’m trying to make here is that young people who do well in school spend less time on their devices.
I will actually go further and provide a more in-depth explanation of what I am implying here. Having taught in mainly grammar schools and private schools as a Physics teacher, I’ve been fortunate to have taught many high achieving teenagers who have performed very well in their GCSE and A-level and gained admission to top universities. What I have discovered is that not all high achievers are the so-called geniuses. Yes, that are some who could be considered to be exceptionally academically talented; however, most are not. They are of average or just above average intelligence. Observations and experience have proven this to me and I am a strong believer that nurture plays a more important role in achievements than nature. I’ve also seen many people with minimal level of formal education who have been very successful authors, and some of them have even written tens and perhaps hundreds of books. One particular thing that many of these people have in common is that they tend to be avid readers. Yes, this includes today when the general perception is that no one reads anymore. The truth is that most successful people read but they do not always want to speak about it, as it is not perceived as been so cool to be bookworms.
In terms of where to read from, there are so many options these days – from the traditional book to Kindle and Audible. Although I read from an iPad – using Kindle or Audible sometimes, my preference is to read from a physical book. I’m speaking about that bulky thing with pages and pages and a rather interesting smell to it. Many people listen to audio books using Audible when they are doing other activities such as exercising, cooking, driving or walking. For me, I often have two or three books that I’m reading at a period of time, and when I like a book enough I tend to have both an electronic and also a physical paper copy, as this helps me to read it from different locations and environments.
I was able to persuade my son to write quite a bit when he was younger, like writing about eight pages of A-4 every day during the summer holiday when he was about 12. What he wrote about had to be something he enjoyed, so I allowed him the option of choosing from football and a creative story about someone getting lost in the Amazon jungle and things of that sort.
Although my son’s strongest subjects are the mathematical ones, he also does well in subjects like English, History and Philosophy, and this is despite him always going on about how much he does not like English in particular. I reckon the fact that he read and wrote quite a bit at an early age helped him to develop the skills that make him good in art subjects.
Reading is something I’d encourage every parent to do their best in persuading their children to do. Although this is easier to do when the child is young, it is never too late. With persistence and finding a way to get them to buy into it, teenagers can be encouraged to read more.
I was pondering about whether to recommend specific books for teenagers and the reason for that is that it may be a little intimidating to do so for those young people who do not particularly like reading. What really matters is to get started with a book they enjoy reading. Hopefully it is something that is written in good English, but it does not matter hugely at the start.
I decided to provide a very short list of books anyway but there are hundreds of others.
- Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
- Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
- To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien
As I mentioned earlier, the benefits of reading, particularly at an early age, are enormous and they go well beyond helping children to do well academically. There is a quote from Harry Truman that says, “Not All Readers Are Leaders, But All Leaders Are Readers”.
It was true then and it is still true now. I will change that quote and apply it to teenagers’ education and say “Not All Readers are High Achievers, But All High Achievers are Readers”. It is well-documented how reading helped with mental health during the lockdown period, and it is an activity that is not expensive and does not necessarily make you gain weight!
For me, reading is a pleasurable activity that I always find time to indulge in on a daily basis. I strongly recommend it to adults and young people alike.