As a teacher, it’s my professional duty to make sure children can read and, once the mechanics of decoding are in place, to show them why reading matters. There are plenty of arguments to deploy, even for the most reluctant or disinterested of readers. Reading tells you things you didn’t know before. You will know more words and so be able to explain yourself better. You can travel the world and visit distant, unknown planets or stay close to home, all at the turn of the page. It’s fun – join the library, and it’s free. You’d me mad not to.
But, for me, reading matters most because it makes us better people. The grandest and most humane function of reading is to instil empathy in the reader, an understanding of the world from someone else’s point of view. It is in those moments when the written word means reality is seen in new ways, through another’s eyes; when the character becomes as real as the paper you are holding and in some way becomes part of you. This, I think, is what is most remarkable and what is most important about reading. The best writing can change you and make you quietly, subtly better at being who you are.
This is is certainly the case with Wonder by RJ Palacio, a book which tells the story of August Pullman, a boy born with a facial disfigurement, as he starts his first year at middle school. August has a face that is shocking in its deformity, so shocking that it is only partially described in the book and is revealed mostly by people’s reactions; they point, they stare, they whisper, they turn away, they say cruel, cutting words. But on August goes, into the world – gently cajoled by his parents from the cocoon of home. Continue reading