Mr Bergin’s February Blog

Jun 11, 2016

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WORLD BOOK DAY AND THE ISSUE OF READING

Well done to all of our staff and students who dressed up for World Book Day last week.  It was great to see so many different costumes and creative ideas. A large group of Year 9 girls may have been stretching credibility a little with their Thing 1 and Thing 2 outfits but I can only admire their style and organisational skills.

I always like to get the staff thinking at this time of year and I asked them what the book was that they always come back to. I love World Book Day but I do think that it should be about more than dressing up in an easily recognisable costume. We must think about why reading is so important, especially when there are so many distractions from social media and frankly we should be reading more than Dr Suess and Roald Dahl, wonderful as those authors are.  I have spoken before and many people more academic than me have shown the evidence of how language deficit really impacts on young people and how reading is such a huge part of that. Kate Atkins at Rosendale would cite it as being more important than anything in terms of creating the building blocks of learning.

Our responsibility as a school is that we ensure that everybody is literate enough to enjoy great literature, that your background does not mean that you are less likely to enjoy the written word and that reading is not just seen as means to an end but also an end in itself. Our library is a big part of that of course but we are constantly looking of other ways to ensure that great literature matters to our students. We have reading groups for the Sixth Form, lots of author visits and Mr More is doing some great work with our students who are from disadvantaged backgrounds.

However, I am worried that if I ask our current young people in twenty or thirty years what the book is that they always come back to I hope they give such interesting and varied responses. There are so many distractions that it is easier to pick up an iPad than a book and it easier to read an anime than Jane Eyre. I also think that although it is important to get children reading it is also important that children realise that there is literature that is better than others. There are lots of difficult discussions here about the literary cannon and the issue of imposing cultural structures on young people but I hope that most people can’t deny that some great works of literature are going to enrich more than others. I recently heard an educationalist called Martin Robinson talk about a return to the Greek Trivium of grammar, dialectic and rhetoric. I must admit that his ideas about creating a strong knowledge base, which then leads to a confidence in questioning, debate and creativity really hit a nerve with me.

My own choice of F Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ I think is a good case in point. School introduced me to the book at A level and I have loved it ever since. Possibly because I’m a hopeless romantic and because I was taught it brilliantly but it has also enriched my life immeasurably. The beautiful vocabulary of the novel has entered my vocabulary and the historical and cultural contact has fascinated me ever since. The perfect balance of Fitzgerald’s prose has made my writing better.  It has in fact made me a better person. I could say the same for Hardy or Orwell or Emily Bronte to Marlon James or Irving Welsh. Reading high quality literature enriches your life and we must never forget this with our young people. I have just read ‘Animal Farm’ with Year 7 and they loved it because it’s a great book. I was speaking to a parent about ‘Lord of the Flies’ the other day. We both agreed it was a bleak view of society but what a book it is.

So please do everything you can to get your children to read but remember that quality is just as important as quantity. Peruse the list and maybe try two or three. Some might add more value than others but somewhere in this list or somewhere out there is the novel that will unlock and change someone’s world:

Mr Arnett

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Mr Bayfield

 Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Mr Bennett

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole  by Sue Townsend

Mr Bergin

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

Miss Berhe

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Mrs Bonavita

The Bible

Mr Broom

Money by Martin Amis

Ms Brown

The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Mr Buys

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

Ms Callaghan

Five people you meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Ms Clarke

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Ms Collinge

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Miss Deakin

‘Tales of the city’ by Armistead Maupin

Ms Deans

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Miss Dewes

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Miss Doggart

The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Ms Dray

Any Human Heart by William Boyd

Mr Drinkall

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Ms Eagle

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Ms Foster

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Mr Franklin

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein

Mr Freeman

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Mrs Grant

Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut

Mrs Haberfield

The Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

Mr Haughton-Campbell

The Alchemist by Paul Coehlo

Miss Hickey

A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

Mr Hill

Fahrenheit 451‘’ by Ray Bradbury

Mrs Hood

Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Mrs Horne

The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott

Miss Hunter

A Room with a View by E.M Forster

Mr James

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein

Miss Jaszczak

Quo Vadis by Henrk Sienkiewicz

Miss Kaur

Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Miss Lamb

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Mr Lewis

Leading by Sir Alex Ferguson

Mr Lester

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

Miss Lloyd

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Ms Lopetrone

The Grapes of Wrath by  John Steinbeck

Mr Margerison

Complete Works  by Mathew Arnold

Mrs McHugh

Outlander by Diana Gabbaldon

Mr McIntosh

The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason

Mrs McKeone

The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor

Miss McLaughlin

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Miss Meen

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hossaini

Mrs Moran

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynee Truss

Miss Morgan

Little Black Girl Lost 4 by Keith lee Johnson

Mr Moroney

Stoner by John Williams

Ms Myers

What the neighbours did, and other stories  by Philippa Pearce

Mr Newman

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Miss Nix

The Man who mistook his wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

Mrs O’ Connell

 God of small things by Arundhati Roy

Miss Oakley

 Gloria by Kerry Young

Mrs O’Hana-James

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Mrs Plant

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes

Nutter, Witch   by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Mr Pogson

Island by Aldous Huxley

Miss Reynolds

Acts of Faith by Iyanla Vanzant

Mr Sandoe

Treasure Island by  Robert Louis Stevenson

Mrs Seabright

Foundation by Isaac Asmimov

Mr Silly

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

Miss Simpson

Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan

Mr Steele

The Bible

Mrs Straker

Assata by Assata Shakur

Mr Sullivan

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Mrs Garner

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Mr Taylor

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson

Mr Thomas

Eskiboy by Wiley

Mr Thomson

The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien

Mrs Tolley

Diary of an Ordinary Woman by Margaret Forster

Mr Turner

Empire of the Sun by JG Ballard

Mrs Wallis

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Miss Wallman

Girl Up by Laura Bates

Mr Welsh

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway.

Miss West

A thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Miss West

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

Miss Wilson-Venn

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Ms Wisson

To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee

Mrs Young

The Secret History by Donna Tart

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