Reading and self-expression: 'Students who are confident with reading are able to articulate themselves well'

Published on: 07 March 2023

Johnoi Josephs, Head of Year Eight at Lanfranc Archbishop Academy in Croydon – which took part in a BookTrust Represents author visit - reflects on how reading shapes pupils' ability to articulate their views and their lived experiences, and how school author visits reinforce the value of this.

Johnoi Josephs speaking about BookTrust Represents visits with a fellow teacher

Offering support and guidance for schools across the UK to promote representation and diversity in books is crucial for BookTrust's mission to get children reading. Our research highlights how school author visits and the use of diverse and inclusive books in the classroom have a positive impact on children's engagement with books, their motivation to read and write their own stories, and their future aspirations.

Lanfranc Archbishop Academy in Croydon participated in a BookTrust Represents school author visit from Jeffrey Boakye, author of Musical Truth.

Johnoi Josephs, Head of Year Eight at the secondary school, reflects on students' responses, and describes the link he sees between children's reading habits and their capacity to articulate their own opinions, experiences and dreams.

Finding a voice through reading

Johnoi says: 'I teach Religious Studies and Politics. Articulation and discussion are at the forefront of our subject. Having a diverse range of opinions is so needed in the classroom – not from teachers, but from students.

'Students who are confident with reading are able to articulate themselves well. They're leading those peer-to-peer discussions. These students also articulate on behalf of those who are less confident, by sharing their viewpoints.

'We teachers can actually step back and allow them to have discourse that's needed on certain topics that are affecting them in society.'

Seeing the value in sharing lived experiences through storytelling

Jeffrey Boakye talking to children on a BookTrust Represents school visit

'During his BookTrust Represents author talk, Jeffrey Boakye spoke about a song by Estelle, '1980'. He referenced the part where she raps that she grew up in a household where – and I'm paraphrasing – sometimes she was so cold that she'd have to go under her bed covers. He really brought it home, the fact that some of these students can share that experience. It was a really sobering moment.

'For our students to know it's actually normal to talk about these experiences and not be ashamed of them, that's so important. It opens up these conversations. For them to have an author come and visit their school who may have had similar experiences or a similar upbringing to them, it allows them to feel a sense of belonging and connection, that they're not alone.

'I'm hoping students will foster this aspect of storytelling and tell their own story. That first starts with not being ashamed of your background or your history, your heritage, and also being able to articulate that well.'

Pupil reactions to the BookTrust Represents author visit

Jeffrey Boakye talking to children on a BookTrust Represents school visit

After the BookTrust Represents author visit, Avery, a Year 7 pupil at Archbishop Lanfranc Academy, said: 'It inspired me that I should do what I want to do. The dream I want to do, it inspired me that I should keep trying and I shouldn't give up.'

Johnoi added: 'We need more of this. We need pupils to make that connection [between the author pursuing his dreams] and their own hopes and dreams.

'To have an author come and visit who grew up in South London, who was also part of this diaspora era, that's something many of our students can use to connect. I think they were really starstruck to see another Black man, who's an author, who wrote the book that they're reading. I know they were inspired by it.'

Advice for teachers wanting to bring more inclusive books into schools

BookTrust Represents

Our project promotes and supports children’s authors and illustrators of colour, so young readers find the books that represent them.

Learn more about BookTrust Represents