“Build reading into your family’s routine,” suggests Jane Mann

With the recent collaboration between the UAE Ministry of Education and Cambridge University Press, both organizations are aiming to boost children’s confidence while they study at home. Schoolshg0088手机版登录 have finally come to a close and now parents find themselves looking to keep their children occupied. In our exclusive interview with Jane Mann, Managing Director, we look at reading habits within children and adults in recent times and discuss how we can encourage children to read more in 2020.

Now that children have spent the past two months learning at home, do you think they’ll be less likely to read books in their free time?

The move to home learning has upended routines for families and children around the world and we are only just beginning to see research into what children have been doing during the lockdown. Interestingly, the evidence in the UK shows that many children have been reading more books during the crisis than before. Research conducted by BookTrust found that 47% of parents reported their children were reading more by themselves, and 34% said they were reading to their children more. We’ve seen the same thing for adults’ reading habits – 31% of adults in a survey conducted by Populus Omnibus reported that they were reading more since lockdown began.

hg0088手机版登录We can’t know for sure, but this increase in reading might be because screen time has increased massively during the crisis. Children are spending much of their learning time on a screen, parents are spending much more of their day on video calls rather than face-to-face meetings, so this is changing the way we choose to spend our leisure time. Reading has always been a great way to unplug and unwind.

How can parents encourage children to read more in the age of technology?

Forming a reading habit is a hugely beneficial thing for young children. The evidence shows that there are clear links between reading at home and improved performance in vocabulary and spelling, and the link between vocabulary and wider academic performance is well established. Reading also has socio-emotional benefits, helping to build children’s social connections with others.

hg0088手机版登录There are two simple-but-powerful things that parents can do to encourage their children to read more. The first is to read for pleasure themselves. If children see their role models reading, they will come to build positive associations with the activity, that this is something people choose to spend their time doing. The second is to make time. Build reading into your family’s routine to help your children build a habit. Research has shown that it takes on average 66 days – a little over two months – to form a habit. So the patterns of increased reading that we’re seeing in lockdown could well become lasting routines.

What were some of your favorite books when you were younger? Are they relevant to today’s generation?

My favourite book as a child is still one of my favourites now – The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – and it is a book I think everyone should read and reread. As a child, I loved the fact that Saint-Exupéry seemed to trust the imagination of children more than the facts-and-figures world of adults (I will always remember the picture of the elephant inside the boa constrictor…), and I felt immersed in the world Saint-Exupéry built around the lonely Little Prince, with the simple, beguiling illustrations. As an adult, I grew to love the allegory in the book. It works on so many levels, as it is essentially just a story about human nature – about love, and power, and loss, and the inevitability of growing up. It has powerful messages for today’s generation, too, especially around looking after the planet, as well as each other: ‘“It’s just a question of self-discipline,” the little prince explained later. “First thing in the morning you look after yourself, you brush your teeth and wash your face, don’t you? Well, the second thing you must do is to look after the planet.”’

About the Author

Jane hg0088手机版登录has worked in educational publishing since 1997, at every level up to the boardroom, and has also spent 13 years as a consultant. She has significant experience in developing coherent solutions for education reform, working with heads of state, ministries of education, government agencies, civil society organisations, donor agencies and other educational organisations to design policy approaches, effective materials and infrastructures for sustainable reform.

Jane was recently appointed Managing Director of the new Cambridge Partnership for Education, bringing together Cambridge’s joint capabilities in this sector, across curriculum, assessment, teaching and learning materials and teacher development, from policy to implementation. She is the Cambridge founder of the UNICEF-Cambridge-Microsoft Learning Passport initiative, which aims to find new solutions to educating refugee and displaced children; she is also a member of the Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement (University of Cambridgehg0088手机版登录). Jane is a BESA Executive Council member and is chair of the Women’s Education Suppliers Working Group.

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