A Year of Reading: What happened next?
Published on: 13 July 2021
In her previous blog, teacher Deb Texeira shared her inside tips on organising a Year of Reading Activities for primary schools. Here, she takes a look at some of the obstacles she faced and how the school is keeping the love of reading alive after its amazing year - and how tiny changes can make a world of difference to a child.
Primary school children with a teacher
Time for a reading overhaul
In my previous blog, I shared my school's experience in putting together a Year of Reading Activities for our children. It was a big success, but not without its challenges!
One of the main challenges lay with how - and what - our younger Reception and KS1 children were reading. Children enter our school from different settings. Some are able to “read” quite early, but it can be a challenge to explain to parents that, whilst this is great, they need to be able to understand what they are reading and enjoy what they are reading.
All too often, the number of scheme books a child can read is given as an indicator of how good at reading they are - with no indicator of wheher they're actually enjoying it!
To challenge this mindset, we have radically changed the reading texts for KS1 and gotten rid of all our Oxford Reading Tree books. They do not teach children to use their phonics to read and in our experience can be dull for children, parents, and teachers reading together. Instead, we have invested in text-rich books that will inspire - and hopefully help our children fall in love with - reading, rather than see it as a chore.
Parent and carer school sessions
Another obstacle was that parents and carers were simply not very involved in their child's reading habits. To tackle this, we introduced “Come and Learn Sessions” for parents and carers. These are 45 minute long sessions in the afternoon when parents are invited to come to school and learn with their children in class. The session we held in September 2019 was all about reading and learning about inferencing skills. This will continue as current restrictions are lifted.
For Reception-age children and their parents and carers, we introduced “Stay and Learn Sessions” - which are similar but a little more hands on than the Come and Learn sessions. We actually help our parents and carers engage with reading with their children. We did it last term and parents and children loved it. There were no distractions, no TV, no phones, and no little siblings. Just one on one reading time! It was a lovely session.
We have also introduced “Hooked on Books” which is a brilliant way of encouraging out children to read for pleasure, appreciate quality books and understand the complexities of a text. We invested in new books across the school, sets of six books so that groups of children could read at the same time and discuss what they have read. This has been a real game-changer in terms of reading for pleasure in our school. The children have enjoyed reading “quality books” not scheme based ones. They are able to talk about the characters, their feelings and why the author might write it in that way. Even the youngest children get involved in Book Talk!
Author M. G. Leonard at an author visit at Deborah's school
Letting children share their favourite books
Sometimes a child will find a book outside of school that they really love and want to share.
Last Autumn term 2019, I was given the amazing opportunity to spend the day with each of the 21 classes in my school. This was designated Love Books Day. The children were invited to bring in their favourite books from home or the library. The day was spent reading, chatting about books, drawing illustrations, looking at original artwork and discussing how books are made. The children listened to me read countless stories out loud to them. It was a truly wonderful day which the children still talk about.
Author and Illustrator Visits at Paddox School
Meeting an author or illustrator can be so inspiring for children. Since the success of our Literary Festival in 2018 we have continued to promote the Love of Reading wherever we can - and bringing creators into schools to speak to children is a brilliant way to do this. In December 2018 we held an Arts Week based around the Kate Greenaway Award-winning The Lost Words. The classes were all given a word to bring alive and they filled the school with poems, art and wonder. The week culminated in a visit from Jackie Morris who spent the day with us. She painted otters in front of spell bound children and staff. Then did small workshops with some lucky classes.
Since then we have welcomed to Paddox School the following Authors and Visitors.
- AF Harrold
- Chae Strathie
- Alex T Smith
- Taylor Dolan
- Thomas Taylor
- Karin Celestine
- Chris Riddell
And of course our current Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell.
We feel that when the children meet an author or illustrator, books become alive for them.
They can see where the ideas come from, they can ask questions. They are hugely important for our children and even though the current climate has changed this for the time being we are still hoping to hold virtual events.
Sharing insights with other schools and groups
Finally, we're looking to share everything we've learned from our new attitude to reading with other schools and steering groups. I am now part of the Children’s Laureate Steering Group, which is responsible for choosing the Children’s Laureate - now in its 22nd year. Being a serving teacher brings a different dimension to the group as I find I can often share insights of current events and attitudes in schools regarding reading and the interests of children.
The lived experience of many of our children is not what you might expect of a school with our demographic. Their parents and carers are involved in the life of the school, and this becomes a part of our children'slearning experience. Putting reading at the heart of our curriculum is drawing together our school community in wonderful way.