Reading unlocks a world of imagination, creativity and wonder.
It expands one’s vocabulary and comprehension, allows for creative thinking and improves concentration. As adults, we read to gain a better perspective on the world around us, to destress or simply to gain knowledge. We understand that the importance of reading is not to be underestimated and therefore we introduce our children to reading at a very early age. At St Andrew’s School for Girls in Johannesburg, the introduction to reading is done with the dual purposes of creating a genuine love for reading and connecting that with a time for reflection and relaxation.
We are very proud of our ‘Reading Room’, which is designed to develop the individual‘s ability to read in an environment that is simultaneously stimulating and relaxing. It is in this space that, from Grade 1, our students are introduced to a variety of reading topics and literary genres. The girls read at their own pace, on couches, blankets, cushions and the carpet. In this way, each pupil develops her love for reading according to her individual capacity, without the pressure to perform. Pupils read at their own ‘challenged’ level to allow for positive progression.
At St Andrew’s School for Girls, we believe that a passion for reading creates a love for learning and that reading and reflection go hand in hand. Two years ago we therefore took the initiative to introduce ‘Reflection Time’ for our Grades 4-7 girls. In the last lesson of every Friday our students have the opportunity to spend some quiet time in a safe place with their class teacher, reflecting on their thoughts and processing their week.
Journaling forms an important part of Reflection Time, and the girls are given the chance to write down their views, feelings and experiences. Research shows that the positive benefits of journaling1 (which include improved self-discipline, healing, enhanced communication skills, mindset adjustment, stress alleviation and stronger emotional intelligence), assist in allowing those who journal to achieve their goals more readily.
Our reflection time has proven invaluable in building sound relationships between our students and our teachers. It has allowed for a time of connection beyond the academic day and it has afforded our girls and teachers the opportunity to leave school, after a busy week, in a peaceful mood rather than being encumbered with the usual spiral of ‘busyness’ that so often permeates our Friday afternoons.
At St Andrew’s Junior School, we believe in the importance of finding time to incorporate reading, reflection and journaling. Developing these important life skills start in Grade 0, and through our invested and continuous focus on these skills, we provide space and time for both personal growth and the nurturing of important life skills.
If – as the US film director and writer Robert L Rosen describes it – ‘self-reflection entails asking yourself questions about your values, assessing your strengths and failures, and thinking about your perceptions and interactions with others while imagining where you want to take your life in the future,’ then it would be hard to dispute the power of reading, reflection, and journaling.