Lyn Brown

Member of Parliament for West Ham

Summer Reading - Aug 2009

This year, I have been collecting books and waiting for the opportunity to indulge myself.  

Regular readers of the column will know that I am a big fan of crime fiction and sat for three years on the judging committee for the Golden Dagger Awards, the prestigious prize of the Crime Writers’ Association.  So my summer reading always includes some crime novels.  This year I am taking “Master of the Delta,” by Thomas Cook: “Midnight Fugue,” by Reginald Hill, “The Samaritan’s Secret,” by Matt Rees and “The Girl Who Played with Fire,” by Stieg Larsson.

But, after that, I’ll turn to some heavier stuff, interspersing fact with great page-turning fiction.

One treat will be a political book, “A View from the Foothills,” – the diaries of the MP Chris Mullin.  After that I think I’ll move on to “When China Rules The World by Guardian columnist Martin Jacques.  And then, two fantastic historical biographies:  “God’s Englishman, a classic study of Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution by Christopher Hill, that has been on a pile by my bed for a while, and Eric Ives’ “The Life and Death of Ann Boleyn,” a strong political woman who has long fascinated me.

That’s my book list challenge at the moment; I’ll be doing well if I get through them all. It’s good to have reading ambitions, though, to make sure we take time out for enjoyment, as well as learning about new things we don’t get much time to explore in our working lives.

The notion of having some good book to occupy me for the summer holidays is one that has been with me since I was a child.  There was a summer reading challenge, organised by the little library in Silvertown, all those years ago.  That concept is still going strong today.

The Summer Reading Challenge is now a national scheme for children and local libraries dare young people to read six books; a book for every week of their holidays.  Of the children participating, 95% read more than the six. 

Approximately 500,000 children aged 4-12 take part every year and the scheme inspires 30,000 children to join and use their libraries.

It is so very important to keep children reading and learning over the summer holidays

Educational research is completely unambiguous.  A long summer break without any learning is a real problem for children; their knowledge and ability declines when out of school for such a long period.  Participation in structured learning, and access to educational resources like books and games, on the other hand, really helps to address this problem and can foster good learning habits that can last a lifetime.

The Summer Reading Challenge is at a library near you.  I want to encourage the mums and dads, aunts and uncles, nans and grandads to encourage the children in their life, to join up.  The best part is, the whole thing is free.

Unlike us adults, children on the whole really do have plenty of time to read, over the summer, and get through that long list of novels.  This type of scheme really can instil a habit of devouring books for pleasure, and of learning independently, giving benefits that can last their whole life through.

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