Our weekly Blog has been wonderfully written by Mrs Shapland, Head of English and Media. She talks about the reading of all types of media and how it benefits young minds.
I have written before about the benefits and power of reading. The benefits of reading are well documented and thoroughly researched. One study suggests that young people who read for pleasure are six times more likely to be reading at a level above that expected for their age and thus far more likely to be academically successful. However, in our increasingly digital and visual world it is not just books that we need to be teaching our children to read.
In a world where the study of English Literature beyond GCSE is, sadly, in decline and the rise and proliferation of media content is a 24/7 experience for us all, we need to find ways to support our young people with the reading skills they need to navigate their lives.
When we go beyond the decoding of a text, reading is an analytical skill where we synthesise knowledge from the text in front of us and knowledge from our own understanding of the world. If a text is presenting us with a new experience or opinion we learn something; if it doesn’t, it confirms our existing understanding of our world. The great tome of Alice in Wonderland may not teach us anything about falling down rabbit holes, or the merits and demerits of painting roses, but it does teach us about power, expectations and why following instructions without thinking might have benefits as well as unintended consequences.
Reading modern media is similar, but in a world of disinformation how can we arm young people with the ability to read beyond the glossy images or sound bites of what they are consuming via platforms such as Instagram and Tik Tok? And, perhaps more importantly, how can we ensure they are learning the positive and affirming messages we need them to learn to be successful adults, when many platforms rely on promoting adversarial and negative messages to ensure their profit margins?
Promoting healthy digital literacy can be difficult. Teenagers, as we recall from once being one, “know everything”- an idea far harder to counter when we, their guiding adults, are perhaps not even familiar with the technology or media platforms and messages they are accessing. However, the things that drive teenagers have not changed: media producers and promoters know this. It is why our young people are so vulnerable to the repeated messaging they receive, if they cannot read media successfully.
At Bethany, media literacy isn’t just taught in Media Studies lessons, it forms part of the Year 7 – 9 English and Media curriculum; it is covered in PSHCE; it is discussed in assemblies and tutor times. We understand the need to ensure that young people don’t just passively consume content. Decoding is not enough: we must analyse and think.
In the English and Media department we are always keen that parents support their child’s reading by asking questions to help them read at a higher level, whether this be the traditional novel or a media product such as, an Instagram post, a television series, an advertisement or a Tik Tok video. Showing an interest in their media lives, as well as the latest novel we have sent home, also has the added advantage of giving you a little more insight into what they are consuming and what they value.
Key points for discussion might be:
Reading traditional English Literature has the invaluable benefit of teaching young people about what it is to be human and to allow them to explore some of the key debates about humanity. This benefit can also be found in reading media with our young people, but we do need to be a lot more savvy ourselves about the “how” and “why” of the production and promotion of media products than we do with the humble novel.
Head of English and Media