Benefits of reading and reading suggestions for Tutors and Students

By Sarah Gordon MTA
Benefits of reading and reading suggestions for Tutors and Students

‘I’m already bored, why would I want to read?’ or ‘I can’t!’, are just some of the responses you may have heard as a tutor or parent when trying to encourage your child or tutee to dive headlong into a book we just know they will enjoy if they only give it a chance. But how do we get them there? And what is the point?

Aside from the obvious academic benefits reading inevitably leaves as part of its very own miraculous imprint - including widening students’ vocabulary, growing their understanding of how to use grammar accurately, and a very real and measurable effect in improving confidence in spelling - reading is so much more important than just this.

Reading serves to allow our children some ‘them-time’, where children and young people stop being ‘students’ and become just ‘them’.

Here at Signature Tuition, we have found that a key concern that both parents and tutors can find themselves getting too hung up on is what they feel their student or child should be reading. When coaxing a student into just how fantastic reading can be, avoiding the idea of ‘should’, and instead just enjoying the reading (no matter where it comes from in terms of its medium) is key. Tuition opens the gateway to flexibility, with few limits placed on genre, type and medium. For example, the ‘pop’ culture books that are currently experiencing a surge (think the ‘teen-vampire’ genre of the last decade, popularised by the Twilight Saga series, or the current popularity of young adult dystopian novels made popular by books such as The Hunger Games) are just as valid to a young reader as a canonical classic may be in getting them to the starting blocks. Whilst it may seem that these texts have a limited literary value, the fact that these books make young people want to turn up and turn the pages has to be valued as a treasure in itself.

The brilliance for tutors and their learner-readers is that reading today is super-versatile. There is material to suit any interest-type, topic, and subject. To add to this, reading definitely does not just take shape in the form of the good ol’-fashioned book. We’ve now got e-readers, magazines (from special interest to gossip, online and in print), blogs, news websites, online opinion-pieces from all manner of recognisable public figures which, if chosen with your student’s own personal needs and interests in mind, can foster a passion for knowledge (and yet more reading!). That’s got to be a tuition ‘win’!

Reading allows us all to step out of the world we know and into one that we often had no idea could exist. And live in it. What better way to support our students, not only in boosting their levels of literacy, but also in increasing their awareness of the complex, challenging and changing world around them? As tutors we aim to enrich the lives of the young people we work with; reading can be at the heart of encouraging a passion - not only for learning and improved levels of literacy – but for our students’ interest and engagement in the world, and the experience of the people in it.

Imagine a world where the phrase ‘Big Brother’ had not been coined by Orwell in the classic dystopian novel ‘1984’. What better term would we have to explain the experience many of us have observed when we’ve felt authority has become ‘interference’? Think Dickens and his unyielding passion for ensuring those enduring the harshest conditions at the lowest rung of Victorian society made them ‘matter’ in a world that had previously given little thought to them. How much longer would it have taken for marginalised groups such as the ones Dickens saw to have gained wide-spread attention? In a world where we are bombarded by news reports on events from across the globe which often feel more real than ever before, modern classics (such as Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Hosseini’s The Kite Runner or Faulks’ Birdsong) have much to teach us and our students. Together.

And finally…

If you have a student who loves surfing the internet, why not search out a blog together that they can keep track of? This is a great way to encourage more regular reading; blogs are often updated on daily or weekly basis so can be a really effective way of embedding reading as a habit.

Have a politically minded student? Opinion pieces from online broadsheet newspapers can very often prove excellent sources of non-fiction, not only in building and extending an excellent vocabulary range, but also acting as fantastic starting points for inspiring pieces of powerful student writing.

Students (11-16) are currently enjoying (based on my research of the most recently – and heavily - borrowed books from a local mixed Comprehensive School Library. With thanks to K. Dawson):

Hacked by Tracy Alexander
The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
The ever-popular Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The Enemy series by Charlie Higson
Girl Online series by Zoe Sugg
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella


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