“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.” Victor Hugo

“Here’s what I mean by the miracle of language.  When you’re falling into a good book, exactly as you might fall into a dream, a little conduit opens, a passageway between a reader’s heart and a writer’s, a connection that transcends the barriers of continents and generations and even death…. And here’s the magic.  You’re different. You can never go back to being exactly the same person you were before you disappeared into that book.” Anthony Doerr

Reading for pleasure is strongly linked with educational outcomes, but the benefits of reading for pleasure go beyond this and stretch throughout a person’s life. According to Comer, Kidd and Castano (2013) and Oatley 2(016) reading of fiction books is linked to the development of empathy and positive interpersonal characteristics.

Dr Margaret Merga, senior lecturer and researcher at Murdoch University, suggests several things we can do to foster a love of reading.  Model reading independently for pleasure.  If your child sees you pick up a book to read, they are more likely to do so themselves.  Talk about books with your child.  Provide opportunities for your child to access books, like going to the local library.  Read to your child with expression and emotional connection.

Some of my fondest memories were of my dad reading to me. I loved that he used different voices for different characters. Mum was not so good at reading aloud. She stumbled and didn’t have the right flow. But I enjoyed being close to her physically. It allowed me to cuddle, smell and get a close up look at her while she was reading. I got to know her while she was reading.” (RAS study participant)

One way to foster reading for pleasure is to encourage your child to take part in the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge (PRC).  It is an initiative designed to encourage a love of reading in students though their engagement with quality literature.

In addition, the PRC also helps to develop essential learning habits such as being organised, meeting deadlines, being accountable and taking responsibility for their reading.

I would like to congratulate all 125 students who completed the Challenge successfully in 2019.  In particular, I would like to acknowledge Oliver Scott, who received a Gold Certificate for four consecutive years of completing the Challenge.  This is a commendable effort indeed!

So, what does the Challenge involve?

In the K-2 Challenge, students experience thirty books by reading independently, sharing the reading, or listening to someone else read the books to them.  Of the thirty books, at least twenty-five should come from the PRC list and a maximum of five books of their own choice can be included.  I usually enter all of Kindergarten in the Challenge, recording the books we read in Library class to achieve it.

The Year 3-4 Challenge , the Year 5-6 Challenge and the Year7-9 Challenge require students to read twenty books – fifteen must be chosen from the list, while five can be books of their own choice.  The lists are devised to incorporate a range of different books suitable for their age, interests and maturity level.  Some of the Premier’s Reading Challenge books are also Accelerated Reading books.

If a student is a confident reader, he or she may go up a level in the Challenge.  If reading is a skill that the student is still mastering, he or she may read at a level more commensurate with their ability.

The PRC begins on Monday 2 March and closes on Friday 28 August (midnight) 2020.  Students should complete a reading log online.  They need a user name and password to do so.  If they have participated in the Challenge previously, their user name and password should be the same.  If they do not know what it is, please encourage them to come and see me so I can give it to them.  On the completion of the Challenge, students receive a PRC Certificate.   If they complete the Challenge for four consecutive years, they will receive a Gold Certificate.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.  You may also like to consult the website – the address is as follows: https://online.det.nsw.edu.au/prc/home.html

As a reader I have been to Hogwarts and Narnia, escaped the perils of Nazi Germany and explored jungles, the bottom of the sea and outer space.  I have fled the Home for Mislaid Children with Tensy Farlow and escaped from prison with Toad.  I have found a way to freedom with Subhi, a refugee in a detention centre, and with Anh Do on a leaky boat.  I have sailed on the Titanic and survived in war torn Afghanistan.

In the words of Anne Patchett, “reading fiction is important. It is a vital means of imagining a life other than our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic beings”.