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Can anyone tell me how the world works? Why do I need to know this? Well, as you might be aware I have two blogs, this my professional one and I have a second one which is my ‘personal/gaming’ blog. I blog every Saturday to my personal blog (I love the name I came up with – Back of Beyond!) and yesterday I published a post which was part of the continuing saga of my weird life. Currently, and I’ve just checked, it has a total of forty one views – one of my highest recorded views of any of my blog posts and two comments! Returning to my original question, why does that happen when I write a blog about being weird? Answers, as always, in the comments below . This week’s waffle is something slightly different – I read an article this morning while eating my usual two slices of toast and really thought – could this actual be true? Well, what follows are my thoughts…

I have a confession to make. Despite being labelled as an academic due to my job title, I don’t feel that I fit into the stereotype of that role. Often as I walk around university I pass other academics in their super tidy offices surrounded by books and reading and reading and reading. Of course, they might hear me coming and quickly whip out a book, but I do think it is their usual practice and they are not doing it to make me feel inadequate. My confession is that I do not actually enjoy reading. If I am in research mode I like to read and make notes from articles and current research outcomes, but I rarely sit and read a whole book – unless I am required to do so in order to develop my own knowledge and understanding of a concept. The same is true about fiction books. When I climb into bed at night, I don’t grab a book, I check Snapchat, Facebook and see if there are any more Instagram images to like. I might have a quick swipe through an iPad magazine, but reading is generally off the list of pre sleep activities. I do engage with fiction books, but in a slightly different way. I listen to books while I am walking to and from work. I share an account with my brother on Audible and I do read, I mean listen, to quite a selection – I need to update that list, but it will do to demonstrate my point. Why do I listen to books? well maybe there is still that child in me who likes to be read to. I always read to my class at school, even when I taught Year 5/6, and think it is a very important part of promoting the enjoyment of books.

Where is this going? Well the article I read this morning stated that “Boys reading books actually earn more money as adults“. You can read the full article yourself, but I got to thinking whether this could, despite the actual research findings, be true.

“… at the age of 10, a child lived in a house with fewer than 10 books, a shelf of books, a bookcase with up to 100 books, two bookcases, or more than two bookcases.”

  • Book shelves? – The article said that the research started between 1920 and 1956 and, as you can see from the quote, focussed on the number of books and book cases in the house. My mum is brilliant – I probably don’t say that often enough, especially to her, but I remember when we were young heading off to the local library as a family to take our books back and to get new ones out. Even when I was older, as a teenager, I often used to head into town on a Saturday morning to see if the new book of the series I was reading had appeared on the shelves. In fact I actually read the whole of the Lord of the Rings trilogy through library books! On our book shelves at home there was the usual Readers Digest Books, but few of the classics or a whole range of fiction books. But that did not stop me engaging with books. I am assuming that libraries were around between 1920 and 1956 so could it not have been true as well that despite a few books being in a house, children actually had a whole library of books at their figure tips to enjoy and engage with. It was a librarian that actually suggested to my mum, after I was never keen on reading, the first book which actually grabbed my attention – “The Dark is Raising by Susan Cooper” – I still remember it well, although the film is not as good. Books and their containing furniture are not the only variable which should be considered when looking at what and how children read – libraries are great places, from the quiet reading areas to the expansive reference sections. Although the stereotype librarians (Shhhh!) might now be no longer a feature of libraries, books are and surely these have a huge impact on both learning and reading enjoyment – if they are allowed to continue to exist by the government that is and that families engage with them

  • Drive and Imagination – I was trying to think, why would books actually contribute to anyone, I don’t want to separate out the genders here, possibly getting a higher paid job than someone who has not engaged with books. I was walking into walk the other day and actually got goose bumps! Now it was quite chilly and I didn’t have a coat on, but the reaction was probably due to the action in the story that I was listening to. Out in deep space, the crew of the starship were attacked by a superior alien force. The captains started to shout orders and replies came via the communication and engineering sections. Damage reports, tactics and evasive manoeuvres flooded my senses. To me, despite walking down the street, I was actually there, experiencing the combat and situation as it evolved. Books have that ability to exercise our imagination. We imagine and interact with the story as we engage with it. Often films can spoil stories since they can be contrary to the visions and images which we have already created in our heads. As well as the imagery, the characters come to life and we see and live with them as they overcome difficulties and persevere towards sometimes what appear to be impossible goals. I think engaging with books actually allow us to exercise and develop our own motivation and imagination. This in turn allow us to develop the skills relating to problem solving and to be motivated to progress. We have, in almost a virtual way, been through a variety of difficulties with characters and have learnt from these and start to apply them to our everyday life. I’m not saying that if you put me into space I will be a fantastic starship captain – I wish! But maybe I development some of my organisation and problem solving techniques from reading, or listening to books.

  • The geeky lone reader – I often smile when I see depictions of children reading and enjoying books. These often show the child sat comfortably on a beanbag or leaning up against a tree, with the sun streaming through the window or the overhead canopy of leaves, alone and completely engaged with the book. Sometimes with their hand on the top of a small sleeping puppy’s head for added effect. Reading is generally considered a solitary activity. I used to hate reading out aloud at secondary school when we all had to take it in turns to read the next paragraph of ‘Scoop’. I used to spend half the lesson trying to figure out which was going to be my bit so I could check for words which I had never seen before, and the second half of the lesson either hoping that the turn taking wouldn’t get to me or so relieved that I was taking no notice of the lesson at all. I never did understand that book – I got an ‘E’ in English Literature! When we read by ourselves we are in complete control. We can reread if we haven’t understood or check words which we don’t know the meaning of. We can, and I am sure that I am not the only one who does this, miss out those long paragraphs of description to get back to the action! Many might consider that this solitary activity could be detrimental to working in any social workplace in the future. But I think they might be missing out one important aspect of reading which is more sociable. Now I know not everyone does this, but there is that time when we actually find someone who has read the same book as you or, even better, at the same time as you. As previously mentioned, I sometimes read the same books as my brother, and I often send him a text like (while reading The Martian book) – “OMG the airlock has blown out!”. There is something very special about sharing what you think about a book. You develop the ability to express your own point of view, justify it with parts from the book and even listen and challenge other people’s view points. You don’t even need to be talking to someone to use these skills – how many times have we have thought about a book by ourselves, often in our head. These are the skills which are not apparent when you see that image of that lone geeky reader but are the skills which will allow us to become more critical and reflective in our future careers.

  • I’m not sure how you would classify this waffle – is an academic piece or just a waffle? Is it educational, professional or even relevant! Books are very important to everyone but I think that it is not necessarily the process of reading which actually provides us with the benefits, but the books themselves. Authors have that gifted ability to encourage us, challenge us and even impact on our emotions. These are skills which I think teachers do everyday in the classroom and what I hope to do while writing blogs/waffles. The original article which this waffle is based on was titled – “Boys who live with books ‘earn more as adults’. I would challenge this and suggest that the title should read – “Everyone who lives in books will gain more as adults”.

    I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send them to me via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, Google+ or email.

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    Have fun and I’ll catch you later


    Ruth MacMullen · June 6, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    Great article – I love how you’ve looked at the activity of reading and some of the benefits, and where it can take place (including the collaborative nature). I love sharing a good book and it feels immensely personal to make a recommendation then see somebody read that book! Like you I used to be a voracious reader when I was younger, and now I really have to work to fit reading time in. I try to read every day but it is hard. I remind myself of Richard Steele’s quote, ‘reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body’. I also love Groucho Marx: ‘television is very educational. Every time somebody switches it off I go to the library and read a good book.’ I worry that there is so much technology to fill our available time that a generation of kids may grow up without feeling they have the time, space and mental energy to read. I would definitely encourage library membership as there is nothing like browsing a good library to be inspired and find that perfect book – and most of them now have coffee shops so where better than to sit and read your new finds? 🙂 and, to return to the topic of your post (I have done a lot of waffling of my own!!), it may well be that households who value books already (and own them) are the ones who use and value libraries…

    Clare Dean · May 29, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    That article got me thinking about inequality when it comes to accessing essential literature and information. Could we equally say that those without decent Internet access at home now would be equally affected? Probably so. Especially as public libraries, with their vital services, are under attack. It means they can’t access ebooks, look up info, find out info about their worries… Books and other literature are really important, in whichever form you choose to engage with them. Restricting access to them means restricting opportunity and that’s just not fair. There’s so much more I could say on this!

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