As an English teacher, I regularly question our pupils about their lockdown reading during our online lessons. Their answers can very easily be divided into two camps. Without the face to face support of their teachers and librarians, some pupils feel more detached than ever from their reading. They can’t browse the shelves in the school library or receive a gentle nudge from their teachers who haven’t seen them with a book lately. They can’t receive a book recommendation from the librarian, a teacher or, better still, a peer. I urge these children to reach out to the school staff who, also feeling detached from normal business, will be only too keen to suggest the perfect book. Audiobooks seem to be a particular favourite, providing much needed time to relax minds and eyes.
However, the larger majority of children report that there is more time to read for pleasure with life taking a more sedate pace. In a survey about lockdown reading, The National Literacy Trust found that a third of children are reading more during lockdown than before. Furthermore, 3 in 5 children reported that reading makes them feel better during the pandemic, and 3 in 10 say that reading helps them feel less sad when they can’t see their friends and family. Reading the Awesome Books shortlist, or any other great titles, will help children travel far and wide in their imaginations. No longer confined to their houses, they can travel to Eerie-on-Sea and explore the wreck of the battleship Leviathan; they can discover secrets in the Gardener’s Cottage in a country estate; they can travel on the back of a gorgeous stolen elephant; they can race against time to find a way to fix the magical city of Five Lights, and they can join the adventures of two siblings and a goat alone in the forest.
Whatever the children read, they will be assured of a wonderful journey, far beyond the current restrictions. As Mason Cooley so aptly wrote, “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”
Mrs Kate Schutte, Head of English, Cranleigh Prep School