How about we make reading a compulsory subject in our primary and secondary schools. In fact, let’s make it examinable too. The benefits of reading are widely established. As shown by various research that reading not only improves school grades but also enables a flourishing life as adults and nurtures better citizens.
How will ‘reading’ as a subject work?
Research shows that young children need help to read independently and with pleasure, so that can be the role of lower primary teachers. Later on, up to secondary school, teachers can go on to talk about how to get more out of reading fiction, how to read non-fiction more efficiently, how to read critically, and how to choose books. Better still, rather than tell, teachers can show and share the sheer fun of reading.
However, the key is that most lessons will simply be class time set aside solely for reading, half an hour to an hour a day. The teacher will go round to help struggling kids, or just to chat with them about what they are reading or wish to read. Each level will have a recommended list of both easy and difficult books, which students can borrow from the school library. Students need read only some of the books on the list, and can also choose to read books beyond the list. The list should have a very wide range of titles: fiction, non-fiction, novels, poetry, science, biographies, history, philosophy, gastronomy, sports among others.
One possible objection to making reading compulsory and examinable is that it might turn students off reading. The answer is that few students are keen on reading anyway so it could not turn off any more of them. It is up to our teachers, properly trained, of course, to make reading a joy.
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