• Daniel Brocklehurst

Reading Goal for 2020

It's a new year and the perfect time to set your reading challenge!

Research shows time and time again what students should do to improve their reading and writing skills. The answer: read!

While it is certainly helpful to focus on different facets that comprise the complex business of a language, one simply needs to be reading – a lot! Learning about grammar, memorising new vocabulary and spelling, writing stories and speeches... this is excellent. It all helps. However, sitting down in a quiet place, opening a book, and getting immersed in a novel, a history book, a play, a book of poetry... this is what matters!

When you read, so much happens. You're learning to understand new concepts and ideas, you're developing the ability to move through words for meaning faster, and you're picking up new words. You're exposing yourself to new styles and voices, which you can then use in your own writing. You're exploring the world or identifying with characters, helping to grow your empathy. You're picking up various ways to use punctuation, how paragraphs can be used, structural and linguistic devices... so, so much! And – best of all – the plan is to do all this while enjoying the experience. If you can create the habit of reading for pleasure, you're doing yourself the biggest favour.

Sometimes, however, you do need to make sure you're giving enough time to this all-important habit. How many books can you read this year?

If you read for 30 minutes a day, that's 210 minutes a week (or 3 hours and 30 minutes). For the average reader, it would take 2 weeks to read a 300 page novel – although this will vary for your depending on your reading ability and the difficulty of the book (not to mention to font size!).

Let's imagine that you make an ambitious plan: to read for an HOUR a day! That's not that hard, actually. Plan it into your week; put it into your calendar. So, that means you could read an average-sized book EACH WEEK. That's 52 books in a year! Imagine the gains you will make with your reading ability. Think about how much your writing will improve as a result of this.

It's helpful to start off with a list of books. Be ambitious, but not overly ambitious. You want to read for pleasure, but you also want to push yourself beyond your comfort zone at times.

Make yourself a list of ten books to start with. (Don't make a list of 52 books: you will discover new books throughout the year and you should leave space for these!)

So, ten books. But what to pick? Start with what you know you like.If you enjoy Percy Jackson, for example, put a couple of these books down. But also put a few things in your list that will require a bit more effort. How about Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist or Great Expectations? Push yourself. What about a Sherlock Holmes book? What about Jane Austen? These are a challenge, but they are worth it. Your list could look like this:

1. Rick Riordan, The Titan's Curse

2. Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

3. Rick Riordan, The Battle of the Labyrinth

4. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

This is a good start. You're spacing out the challenging novels amongst those that you know you'll like!

But you should also read a wide variety of genres and types. So, how about some poetry? And maybe a book on history?

5. Benjamin Zephaniah, Talking Turkeys

6. Mary Beard, SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

And a play (after another Percy Jackson novel, of course!)

7. Rick Riordan, Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian

8. William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

What about a graphic novel? And another novel before starting your list again with something you know you'll love?

9. Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese

10. Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

It's about the balance in enjoying the activity of reading, while also pushing yourself at times to read something that's hard. Don't worry if you don't understand every word that is said in, for example, Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Don't get bogged down. Just go for it. (With Shakespeare, I always recommend seeing the play first, if possible, on stage, or as a film.)

So, aim high! Make this year the year you make real progress with your reading. Reading involves skills that improve slowly and gradually over time. Keep at it, and enjoy yourself!

Good luck!

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