The headteacher column with Jonathan Britton.

Jonathan Britton, headteacher at Woldgate School.
Jonathan Britton, headteacher at Woldgate School.

It is always a privilege to walk into a room and see excellent practice, with pupils actively engaged in learning and thoroughly enjoying lessons.

Nothing quite compares to the experience of walking around a secondary school, as you go on a tour of mathematics, philosophy, geography or history, to experience our cumulative knowledge and wisdom as a society being shared with a new generation.

Reading for pleasure has been found to improve our confidence.

Reading for pleasure has been found to improve our confidence.

It is the equivalent of opening a book, an encyclopaedia of knowledge, and flicking through its many pages to reveal the wisdom within.

As someone who loves to read, I find the joy of a good book is in exploring that knowledge and wisdom.

I love reading about many topics and tend only to read non-fiction, as I take great joy in exploring different cultures, world history, science and many other areas of personal interest.

In opening a book we can free ourselves of the ties that bind our minds to the current every day and, in doing so, can find time to reflect, relax and learn.

“... a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”

(George R.R. Martin: ‘A Game of Thrones’)

Research suggests that reading for thirty minutes a week increases health and wellbeing.

Reading for pleasure has been found to improve our confidence and self-esteem, providing the grounding we need to pursue our goals and make life decisions.

It can also aid our sleep and reduce feelings of loneliness. To the onlooker, reading can appear to be a solitary and passive activity. But the simple act of picking up a book can do us a world of good.

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” (Ernest Hemingway)

Intriguing characters can often hook us into a story, but reading helps us to develop our own ideas and personalities as we compare our reactions and beliefs to those in the story. It is this emotional involvement and time for self-reflection that can help us learn about ourselves, develop empathy and understanding.

By default it can, therefore, help to share and form our own personality from a young age.

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” (Groucho Marx)

In a modern world, with the distractions of mobile phones, tablet computers and the trend to live our lives through social media, the joys of reading can struggle to compete or be completely forgotten.

I believe that setting that time aside is, therefore, important and especially so for our children.

Our Literacy Week this term provided a great opportunity to celebrate the written word and to explore great characters from famous novels.

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

(C.S. Lewis)

I will be, once again, reading ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ and ‘That’s Not My Kitten’ to my nine-month-old daughter and, although I might no longer take as much pleasure from the story, I will take great joy in watching my daughter smile and laugh as we turn the pages.