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Reading for pleasure
By Jackie Barns-Graham
08 Aug
A few weeks into the summer holidays, the weather is unpredictable and even the computer games are getting tedious. Adults say ‘read a book’; a suggestion often met with some resistance, but let’s think about it a bit.

Well-meaning recommendations can be valuable but the most important thing about reading is that it should be for pleasure. It will only be a pleasure if it is a book you enjoy. Young people have often said to me that they can watch the DVD rather than read the book. This is certainly an option, but the thing about a book is that your experience when reading it will be totally unique. You will have pictures in your head of the people and the places that are described whereas, if you watch the DVD, you will be seeing pictures from other people’s imaginations, which are limited further by the actors who play them or the artists who draw them. That’s why you will often hear people say that the film is not as good as the book.


So how do you find the books that you will enjoy? I never recommend books to young people! My views are probably horribly dated and if I put a single one of you off reading, I would be mortified. Ask your friends what they are reading. They are your age group and are likely to have similar interests. Talk about books you are reading with your friends; lend and borrow them too. Some people will recommend that you read the classics. They are called ‘classics’ for a reason: they are usually very good and have appealed to generation after generation. However, reading the classics is bit like riding a bike. You will not appreciate a classic book until you have been reading for a while and ‘your bike has had the stabilisers removed’.

Perhaps you are not in the mood for fiction and want to read a factual book. It is important that factual books chosen to be read for pleasure should stimulate your curiosity and imagination. If you find yourself saying ‘Did you know that …?’, you have probably chosen a good book. The Horrible Histories and Horrible Science series, and others of that ilk, all seem to be popular and, although they are pretty light hearted, they contain some sound information that will expand your knowledge while being enjoyable to read. You may be ready to go on to books such as Why Don’t Penguins’ Feet Freeze? produced by the New Scientist, Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything or Ben Miller’s The Aliens Are Coming! and It’s Not Rocket Science. There are loads of books out there. Explore!

If you visit a bookshop, you will be able to read a few pages before buying a book and you’ll get a good feel of whether or not you’ll enjoy it. If you buy books online or download them to a tablet, you can usually download a sample free to see if you like the book before you buy it.

Lastly, the bonus! While you should be reading for pleasure and not just because your teachers or other adults have told you to do so in preparation for exams and interviews, it is helpful in these situations. You will be asked what books you have been reading and, if you are excited by the books you have read, this will come over very positively and your chances of success will be much improved.

Jackie Barns-Graham, author of 11+ Science Practice Papers


Tags: 11+ Science, Jackie Barns-Graham, Reading, Summer

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