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Mougins School

The Learning Curve

The Joy of Reading
  • Secondary Matters
Hilary Lecoy

I have always loved reading. For me, a book is a portal through the back of the wardrobe, through the wall on Platform 13 and ¾, and into a parallel universe of my own choice.

Through reading, I have lived a thousand lives. I have been Laura Ingalls Wilder growing up in her Little House in the Big Woods of Wisconsin; the troubled detective Harry Hole in the mainly Norwegian-based Jo Nesbo thriller series; Frodo Baggins in his quest to save the world from Sauron in The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien; the indomitable Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a Saxon brought up by Vikings who is on a crusade to reclaim his lost birthright, in The Last Kingdom series by Bernard Cornwell…and many, many others.

I am currently Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, in the The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. (I am in the middle of Book 6 and strongly suspect that we have not seen the last of Moraine, the Aes Sedai, even after her epic battle with Lanfear, the Forsaken. If you know the answer, please don’t tell me.) 

The joy of reading is that the magic can operate anywhere: on the beach, in a park, on a plane, in a waiting-room. All you need is a book - and time. 
A long train journey? Brilliant!
A rainy weekend? Fantastic!

My alarm does not ring on Sunday mornings. Instead, I am usually woken by my black cat, Lilith, purring loudly in my ear. If I pretend to still be sleeping, Harley, my long-haired, black and white cat with a black half-smile, will gently tap me on the cheek. When subterfuge is clearly no longer working, I get up, feed my beloved monsters and make myself a mug of hot, frothy, milky coffee. I put on some music (Bach or Ambient), snuggle in my reading chair - all cosy with a blanket over my legs - and open my book. 
Please do not speak to me for the next couple of hours - though even if you do, I probably won’t hear you.

It still seems quite extraordinary to me that the English alphabet has only 26 letters. 26 letters!!! And yet it has been, is being and will continue to be used in a million, million different combinations of sense and meaning. I do appreciate that the magic does not work for everyone and that some may have difficulties in processing what are, after all, simply squiggles on a page. But reading is a skill that has to be learned, much like playing tennis or speaking Spanish. The more you practise, the easier it becomes and the better you get. 

Certainly, reading does not provide instant gratification, in the way that many forms of media do. It requires a certain amount of effort, plus motivation and desire. I was recently horrified to see a book in the hands of a toddler, who did not try to open it but swiped her fingers along its closed front cover. Is this really a sign of our times?
But what are you waiting for? Push open the door of a bookshop. Visit our wonderful school library, brilliantly run by Fabby. Look in some of the yellow book exchange boxes that have appeared around the school, which are part of an Ecoschool initiative run by Carmen and Aleen in Year 11. Pick up a book, open it…and read!

I will finish with the wise words of Tyrion Lannister, from Game of Thrones by George RR Martin, another of my favourite reading sagas. He is a survivor in a pitiless world. What he lacks in strength, he makes up for in intelligence. He is also an avid reader:

‘A mind needs a book as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge. That is why I read so much.’

Hilary Lecoy 
Head of English and Drama


 

  • Secondary