In my first blog I wrote about how my headteacher had wanted to create a ‘culture of reading’ at my school. This time last year, in quiet moments, I worried that it would be impossible. I forgot that creating cultures is something teachers do all the time. Whether it be a culture of neatly presented work, efficient routines, or excellent corridor behaviour – we rely on creating cultures to do our jobs properly. To teach.
I wish I could go back in time to tell myself that the culture will develop as long as we stick to the routines of reading and everyone models the routines to the students. So, if you are starting on the journey of making reading for pleasure an important part of your whole schools focus – maybe because reading and cultural capital feature in the new Ofsted framework, or you want better life chances for your students – then my advice is this: just create opportunities for students to read.
It is slightly disingenuous for me to suggest that it was that easy. There have been times over the year when some students were so reluctant to engage that I gave up hope ever finding a book that would hook them. However, one thing is certain – Curriculum Reading Time, covered in more detail in an earlier blog, was the cornerstone of any success we have had this year. Here are some of the things that helped develop CRT and a reading culture, but more importantly is the list that follows of what we know we can do better next year.
- Having all subjects involved in CRT. The students were inspired by members of staff reading and talking about the books they read – especially in a practical subject.
- Encouraging teaching staff to have mini libraries in their classrooms to help those students who had forgotten a book or did not know how to pick one
- I sent pictures and videos of CRT lessons that showed the students discussing their books and favourite authors, relaxing in corners or in the library for the lesson. This showed colleagues that the expectations could be different to ‘normal’ lessons
- When it got to Christmas and there was a dip in motivation, I had members of staff film themselves talking about their books and inviting the students to talk to them, or to discuss with their peers’ similar themes, characters or twists in their own book. The Oxford Reading Hive author interviews, (you can take a look at them here) were used in the same way.
- I worked with Attainment and Standards Leaders to reach those students who were turning up without a book or changing their book every week (suggesting they were just lifting the first thing they could find for their CRT lesson). We met with these students and helped them find a book they wanted to read
- We want more teacher student discussion about book choices and for there to be more opportunities for students to relax and associate reading with pleasure. We will offer CPD to all staff in the school to show them more examples of what CRT can look like and how we can use discussion to engage readers
- Every student from Year 7-9 has up-to-date reading ages that are held on a database which also shows any reading intervention they are in and books read. Next year CRT lessons will involve teachers discussing book choices and encouraging more age appropriate or challenging texts
- I use research to inform any initiatives we put in place, but I think that sharing that evidence with colleagues and perhaps even students would be beneficial. Everyone is on board and reading: they understand the ‘how’ but to make the myriad of benefits clear I think we should share the ‘why’ in small, frequent chunks
- The OUP English team produce wonderful author videos and I think some disengaged students would have liked to watch the videos and read the book with their peers. For example the Sally Nicholls, Things a Bright Girl Can Do is fantastic and used as an intervention tool could have hooked more readers
- The ultimate dream: that students will form their own book groups and use CRT as a time to meet and discuss with their group. This will take some admin from staff in the first instance, but I think it could take off
We have to refine CRT next year but there is no question that it has had a massive impact not just at my school but across the Trust. Students can regularly be seen lining up for class reading their book, asking if they can have a reading lesson, sharing books with friends and coming to the library to check the returns for the title they really wanted to read. This is not just one-year group, gender or ability – it is most of the school. Next year we will reach the rest. We started with routines, but we now have a culture.