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Finding your brave in a book: Thriving not Surviving

This week’s blog has been written by Mrs Shapland, Head of English and Media at Bethany School. She writes about the value of reading and how it can change your day for the better.

As I write this I confess I am not feeling terribly resilient, brave or like I am thriving. I hope to be all 3 by the time this blog is published, but right now, I am stuck in “one of those weeks”, capped this morning by our boiler deciding it didn’t want to work so I had to break out the dry shampoo.

However, teaching is the sort of job where one has to leave the baggage at the door and be ready for what the day brings you. Whilst (given that we are in exam season) there will undoubtedly be some angst, there will also be the things pupils want to show us and tell us that will bring a smile and also a few ‘eureka’ moments when that tricky skill or topic finally ‘clicks’.

All this has made me wonder about my subject’s role in helping pupils develop resilience, or – to use a word from our learning habits – the ability to persist.

As always, my blog comes back to the value of reading. (I will never bore of this topic as we know this skill is one of the most important in improving young people’s life chances: it has an even bigger impact than what socio-economic group they are born into).

Reading improves mental health. It directly helps us thrive and feel braver. It makes us more resilient.

The question is how?

Firstly, reading makes us more adaptable by showing us solutions to problems we may or may not have experienced. Whether this be Googling how to fix a broken boiler, or buying a child a story about grief, books and text present us with the idea that there are options other than feeling stuck and helpless.

Then, of course, reading develops empathy. Understanding that you are not alone, or that others may have even worse experiences than your own allows you to keep things in perspective.

Furthermore, reading fuels our imagination, making it possible for us to conceive solutions problems, or imagine our lives in a more fulfilling way. This in turn allows us to set goals for ourselves and be brave about trying new things: whether that travelling to a new place or taking up archery because we wish we could be Katniss Everdeen.

Or perhaps, if we aren’t so keen on  the actual doing, it gives us space to do something different with minimal effort. We can go anywhere and do anything in a book, all whilst sitting in our favourite chair eating chocolate biscuits and drinking tea. I would love to just go home this evening and pop on a plane to Tokyo , but I have work, so I shall resort to my book instead (Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa).

And then comes one of my greatest points of solace from reading: all stories have an ending. So to do bad days. (I am hoping my bad day today is going to culminate in a fixed boiler and a hot shower!) Whilst we all appreciate that, like books, not all stories have a happy ending, the idea that “this too shall pass” is an important one for remembering to focus on the big picture.

So as always, my blog comes down to “Reading fixes everything” so do more of it. Read with your children; read for yourself; read with a book club… just read.

You’ll feel better for it.


Mrs Shapland

Head of English and Media