International Literacy Day 2014

8 September, 2014

When a simple search on a search engine for ‘The Importance of Literature’ brings up over 310,000,000 results, it is clear how integral a combination of letters and punctuation is to the way we live. As Nuriel Barbery, author of ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ said:

[quote align=”center” color=”#0C090A”]’I thought: pity the poor in spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language.”[/quote]

This online search is itself a testament to the way that literature has changed over time, from the basic construction of language on a cave wall to the complete library that can now be stored on a 1cm thick tablet!

As Monday the 8th September is International Literacy Day, we thought we’d take the opportunity to see which literature has stood out to our presenters and colleagues, and how they feel about the evolution of literature from paperback book to e-reader in education.

Here’s a few of our colleagues’ answers:

Sam Sheppard (Presenter of courses including Perfect Marking in English)

Favourite Book: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Why: I love Dystopian literature – always have. It’s so powerful, forcing you to re-evaluate your own life and role in society, and the characters are, to me, more interesting as they’re being forced to their limits. Nineteen Eighty-Four was the first Dystopian novel I read and so will always have a special place in my heart.

View on E-Readers in Education: Technology can be a powerful classroom tool  to enhance learning but there does need to be a balance between technology and traditional methods and the use of technological devices should be carefully considered. The National Literacy Trust (2013) found that one-in-six children reported feeling embarrassed to be seen reading and this is a problem that does need to be addressed.


Gary Snapper (Presenter of courses including A-Level 2015: English Literature)

Favourite Book: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Why: It’s an extraordinary work of the imagination in which magic and reality mingle to produce a vivid picture of life in South America. It’s also a superb saga of several generations of one family, playing with ideas about the ways in which family characteristics are handed down from generation to generation. Finally, it’s beautifully written, drawing you in with its beguiling and exotic style.

View on E-Readers in Education: As for e-readers, I have no strong opinions but no objection in principle. I can see many ways in which they could be very useful but at the same time I worry about the diversion of money away from publishers towards the corporations that produce the technology.


Peter O’Connell (Marketing)

Favourite Book: The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

Why: The book is generally seen as macabre while dealing with themes of violence and grotesque humour and the novel works largely as a Bildungsroman as the main protagonist discovers the true nature of their life and those around them which I find interesting. It explores death, morality and provides an insight in to the authors attitudes to religion, aspects of life that most people will have to deal with to some extent within their lives.

View on E-Readers in education: E readers are a vital tool within modern education. The ability for many different texts to be available to the student at the touch of a button allow for study (and reading) on the move. 


Heidi Pickup (Personal Assistant to MD)

Favourite Book: Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Why:  A book that can be enjoyed as a child or an adult alike, from the simple and fantastical nature of a little boy falling to earth to the beautiful drawings which accompany the tale, and into the deeper thoughts and observations about humankind.  So good I have two copies, in French and English, which I regularly return to.

View on E-Readers in education: Anything that encourages children to read is a good thing



Benjamin Ekpenyong (Product Development)

Favourite Book: Silence by Shusaku Endo

Why: Silence charts the little-known struggles of Jesuit missionaries sent to 17th century Japan to support the small Christian communities that had developed there through previous contact with the West, and were now being relentlessly persecuted by the new authorities.  Japan may not be the first place many would think to look for insights into Christianity, but with a gentle, understated hand Shusaku Endo draws out rich, human characters and scenes from this fascinating chapter of history, and along the way, effortlessly explicates universal questions of whether or not one culture can ever truly understand the soul of another, the nature of suffering, and how people can live out their ideals. 

View on E-Readers in education: If e-readers make it easier to read Shakespeare then I’m all for them!


Hannah Charles (Interventions)

Favourite Book: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Why: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is brilliantly written with a mix of light and dark emotions, war story and a love story combined.

View on E-Readers in education: They improve access for all abilities as the settings can be altered for font size and colour, background colour etc. yet no-one else would know without looking over your shoulder.  A great leveller in the classroom.


Cally Challis (Bookings Team)

Favourite Book: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Why: The Characters are written in all the beautiful imperfection of humanity, the world is sharply drawn and the story keeps you turning page after page after page.  Its one of my favourite worlds to fall into winter or summer, though be warned; the story is not for the faint hearted.

View on E-Readers in education: The e-reader definitely has a place in education.  They enable students to carry their entire reading materials in one place as well as having internet and office capabilities.  Additionally there are the environmental benefits to consider.


Sophie Finn (Product Development)

Favourite Book: Oh, The Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Seuss

Why: The number one reason I love it is that beneath the rhyme and rhythm that just makes it so much fun to read, Seuss takes us on an entire life’s journey in this book.  He covers exploration, disappointment, choices and perseverance, all wrapped up in the wondrous concept of awe and amazement. It really makes me smile.  If you haven’t read it, find a copy now!


Carol Free (Product Operations)

Favourite Book: Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

Why:  Why? I could not put this book down until I had finished reading it.  The author managed to ‘hold’ my attention. I also found this book taking me through a wide spectrum of emotions as I enjoyed the roller coaster ride of the content and the disbelief that some of the content could  be true?

View on E-Readers in education: My subjective opinion of e –readers is that I really do not like them. I can see they have a use particularly if one is away on holiday or this device being so small that it can be tucked away easily.  I guess they do have a place in education, but I hold a really old fashioned view that you cannot replace the excitement and feel of a book. If you are encouraging children to read, I think they need to be inspired by the cover as well as the content. They need to see illustrations. They need to see the printed words.  I find that a room full of books is a magical place, and possibly one where all children in education would be inspired to read, in every form, reading aloud , listening to a story time with teacher, sourcing information as a young adult, being inspired and encouraged by the many great books that exist for our enjoyment.  It would be a very sad day indeed if books did not exist.


Myra Coates (Accounts)

Favourite Book: Anything by Shakespeare and my favourite piece of his work would by Romeo and Juliet

Why: because it is just so romantic and full of beautiful words and phrases. A blooming good read that is even better when watched as a play, as of course was the intention.

View on E-Readers in Education: E-readers are brilliant, so many books stored in one place and so light and easy to handle  – aging, disabled and especially little hands can manage to hold onto them for ages instead of struggling with a heavy book. So, yes they do have a place in education, after all we’ll run out of trees at some point in the future.


Katie Grainger (Interventions)

Favourite Book: Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Why: I read it repeatedly as a child. It reminds me of one of the horses that we rescued when I was a child and although it’s a very sad story, it taught me a lot about compassion and empathy for animals. If I ever become a millionaire I will definitely set up an animal sanctuary!


Debbie Taylor (In-School Training)

Favourite Book: Ariel by Sylvia Plath

Why:  these poems showed me how powerful words can truly be and the sheer visceral impact of the English language.  The words explode on the page with a vigour and a rhythm I had never encountered before, and truly represent an artist at the peak of her powers.  Poems have never been this cruel, this strident yet also so tender. 

View on E-Readers in education: I love my Kindle.  I thought I would hate it, but I love being able to carry my library with me wherever I go.  E-readers can encourage children to read in all scenarios of their life, whether for 5 mins or 5 heavenly hours.  On the bus, at home, over lunch – e-readers are our best friends.


Ellie Finney (Product Development)

Favourite Book: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Why:  This book is 600 pages of pure genius, powerful enough to make you believe in God, Fate and Determinism all at the same time. Set in New Hampshire in the 50s and 60s, it charts the friendship of two boys who attend Sunday school together and later, face conscription to the Vietnam War. It is incredibly clever, weaving plots from the beginning and revealing all at the end in Irving’s inimitably humorous style. Read it – you will laugh, cry and never forget it. “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice…”

View on E-Readers in education: You can’t beat a physical book, and therefore I struggle with e-readers. I will probably see their value when I need to move house…


Now it’s your chance to get involved!

Let us know your favourite literature: let us know why it makes an impact on you, and whether you are an enthusiastic e-reader or a passionate paperbacker! Contact us on twitter @osirisedu and let us know! We’ll retweet the best ones and add them to this post.

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