This was my column in the College newsletter this week. I thought it was pretty good, so I’m claiming it for the blog.

I found a wonderful quote from Marx on the weekend (Groucho not Karl):

‘Outside of a dog, a book is a boy’s best friend.
Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.’

I am a book addict, with no plans to enter rehabilitation, but I am often reminded that this is a habit that is not shared by many of my students (there are, of course, honourable exceptions). There is no doubt, however, that there is a significant correlation between reading – for learning, for interest and for pleasure – and academic achievement. A widely-read student has a distinct advantage over other students in both the School Certificate and HSC, and the child is indeed fortunate who has been encouraged to read with enjoyment from an early age.

For someone of my generation – or de-generation, as some may observe – it is important to realise that reading and writing are now not the only Literacies that students need in an increasingly on-line, switched-on world. Students must have that engagement with print – fiction and non-fiction – and yet be conversant with information literacies and visual literacies, which are the dominant ways in which students gather, process and create information using the Internet and especially the World Wide Web.

We need more of all literacies, not less of any; and this creates unique challenges for educators and their students. At the College, we have made significant investments in hardware, software and training to ensure that we have the equipment and knowledge to provide a ‘best-practice’ environment for learning, but we haven’t stopped investing in print for the ARC. How can parents ensure that their students are using these advantages to ensure that their sons are as ‘literate’ as possible?

Some simple ideas you may find useful:

1.     Encourage your son to read, and if you are not confident in recommending books, contact Vicki Lewis in the Library or your son’s English teacher. Wide reading is even more necessary as students advance up the school.

2.     Take stock of your son’s on-line habits and ask him to explain what he uses the ‘Net for. You may even consider getting him to help you become involved in some form of social networking, even if you haven’t already!

3.     Make sure that your son uses the College’s on-line facilities – ATLAS – every day. While teachers are still learning how to use ATLAS to support learning (with all teachers completing 8 hours of professional learning in ICT this semester), students can access their e-mail and calendar through ATLAS and use the system as an effective means of communication.