Three more top tips on creating a culture of reading for pleasure in your school

Published on: 23 January 2023

Farshore ran a Reading for Pleasure award for teachers – and the entries were incredibly impressive! Six schools were chosen as worthy winners. There were some similar themes between them, such as getting the teachers reading, letting children choose books for themselves and diversifying the bookshelves, and some stunningly original ideas.

Here are three more interesting projects from the winners, to inspire and delight! Read about three others here.

Illustration: Erika MezaIllustration: Erika Meza

1. A focus on poetry at Starcross Primary School

Teachers identified appropriate texts for their class, including poetry, based on children’s interests and survey data, introducing new, diverse literature, ensuring all children were represented. 

These books were wrapped and delivered to each class as a special Christmas gift to all children!

We also used Devon Library services to order additional Reading for Pleasure and poetry book boxes for each class.

Poem a day icons were added to all classes’ visual timetables. The children expected to listen to poetry every day!

“I would like to think I am quite imaginative.” - Starcross Primary pupil

We arranged some workshops with a poet, Simon Mole. In preparation, all children completed an online Simon Mole workshop. There was no need to write anything down, no judging or correcting or analysing. It was purely pleasure based!

As a result of this, and class teachers setting time aside for daily poetry read-alouds, Year 1 children cannot stop writing (and reading aloud) their own poetry, and regularly seek out poetry books during Independent Reading Time. Many children asked for a Simon Mole book at our School Book Fair. In Year 1, 12/29 children now cite poetry as their favourite thing to read and listen to.

This illustrates how tiny tweaks, such as a 5-minute poetry focus per day, can ignite children’s love of poetry!

“I love it when my teacher reads aloud… I like it when I can imagine the characters and draw while he reads.” - Starcross Primary pupil

Illustration: Erika MezaIllustration: Erika Meza

2. A book competition at Glenthorne High School

We created a book award, which the book club was asked to name. The members voted on The Bookling, which is an alteration of their long-running library podcast “Booklings Chat”.

Six books were chosen to take part in the award. Students in Years 7-9 come to the library every two weeks for a timetabled library lesson. From Nov-Feb, library lessons are primarily focussed on activities around the six books. For example, to celebrate the book No Man’s Land by Joanna Nadin, students created and cracked their own Caesar Shift codes and ciphers which play a major role in the book itself. And we discussed the pros and cons of being “internet famous”, which is the plot of Girl in Real Life by Tamsin Winter.

Each lesson the librarians read aloud from one or more of the books. Students also read aloud different parts of the book to create discussion. Students use their library lesson time to research aspects of different books. We used When the Sky Falls by Phil Earle as a basis for research around the Blitz using our subscription to Encyclopaedia Britannica.

All authors are contacted via social media. Virtual and in-person visits are organised. In 2021 we were fortunate to have visits from 4 of the 6 authors shortlisted. Local primary schools are invited to meet the authors too.

The winning book is announced in the first week of March. In the weeks leading up to this, all students in all years are given a survey. Even if students haven’t read the books, they vote on favourite cover, favourite blurb, favourite first line, favourite first page.

The result of this survey is that those students who haven’t yet read the books will often seek them out.

The day before the announcement, students can sign up for a Escape Room activity based entirely around the book award books. This proved to be extremely popular and exciting for them.

On the day of the announcement, students are invited to a quiz in the library, and at the end of the quiz, the winning book is announced to huge fanfare. It is also announced on social media. Many of these students have been reading all six books, taking part in library lesson activities around these books and meeting the authors.

79% of the 900 students polled after the 2021 Bookling Book Award said they either “liked” or “loved” reading.

Illustration: Erika MezaIllustration: Erika Meza

3. Encouraging independent reading at Holt Primary school

The majority of our most reluctant readers in Years 5 and 6 indicated that they struggled to find books that they enjoyed from our selection of books at school and rarely completed the books they did find to take home. It was clear that they were paying lip service to independent reading and it was seen as an inconvenience rather than something they enjoyed.

We chose books for our new reading room after talking to the pupils. Our team thought carefully about how we displayed the books so that they were accessible, created areas of interest, celebrated a diversity of genres and was inviting for all ages and stages of reading.

Teachers in Years 5 and 6 introduced a challenge for pupils to create their own ‘Book of Books’, in order to interact creatively with the books they enjoyed reading independently. Teachers modelled how to ‘savour’ and maximise the reading experience with their pupils by first making a class ‘Book of Books’.

Children are rewarded for each book they complete in their Book of Books. The way they clutch these treasured books as they travel to and from school demonstrates how much they value them. They also earn initials in felt for their front covers after completing their second book, adding to the personalised journal. After that we found that motivation became intrinsic, and they really enjoyed reflecting on the progress they were making with independent reading. It was incredible to see how enthusiastic ALL pupils were to engage with reading in this way, especially our once reluctant readers from our focus group.

It was evident that many of them felt liberated when they realised they were allowed to read magazines, joke books, picture books, comics, non-fiction, poetry as well as fiction books with chapters.

It was also rewarding to see a shift in the parents’ thinking regarding the importance of enjoying texts rather than pushing their children to reach the next colour band or level of reading.  

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