Thursday, 4 July 2013

Encouraging Reading for Pleasure in Schools

So before I begin this, my first official blog post, I figure it might be good to give a little background:

I've currently just finished my PGCE in English at University of York, and will be teaching at a school in East Riding from September.  Before this, I was in management for a major high street brand (known for stationery and books, not hard to guess who).  I'm also an avid reader of a variety of books, at the moment I've been exploring some particularly good zombie/apocalyptic novels.

For my research essay at UoY, I was required to carry out some small-scale social research in an aspect of teaching that relates both to issues in English and across the school.  You've probably noticed how I've underlined 'small-scale'.  This is essentially the reason that I've chosen not to share my results, as I believe that there are issues with applying research carried out on a small sample to all students everywhere.  However, if anyone would like to read all 4,000 words, then leave a comment and we can swap emails (or you can tweet me: @borismcdonald).

The topic I chose for this is one close to my heart: how pastoral time can be used to encourage reading for pleasure.  To help you understand why I did this, I'd like to share some research:
- In 2012, 3/10 young adults read daily outside class.  This compares with 4/10 in 2005 (Clark, 2012).
- Negative attitudes towards reading often lead to a lack of overall progress by students (Ofsted, 2004).
- Students who see themselves as less proficient readers tend to enjoy reading less (Clark, 2005).

In my study, I aimed to use activities to boost children's attitudes towards reading, encourage them to read widely and recognise that reading is important to their studies and later life.  What I have chosen to share is some of the ideas I used in this research, and with my classes, to encourage reading for pleasure.  I've chosen to focus on my top three, though I'll add brief descriptions of others from myself and colleagues (feel free to comment and add your own).

Diamond 9 of 'The Rights of the Reader'
To begin I explained to the class Pennac's 'Rights of the Reader':
1. The right to read.
2. The right to skip.
3. The right not to finish a book.
4. The right to read it again
5. The right to read anything.
6. The right to mistake a book for real life.
7. The right to read anywhere.
8. The right to dip in.
9. The right to read out loud.
10. The right to be quiet and not discuss the book with anyone
Students then had to prioritise these in a diamond formation.  This linked in really well with the debating work the class had been doing, as they discussed the ideas in grouped of four and gradually snowballed into a whole class discussion.

Sharing Recommendations on Padlet
I used this as a set of homework tasks for my KS3 classes.  I started by creating a padlet site (see my example), where students added their reviews onto the page (a virtual noticeboard).
The second homework involved them trying one of the recommendations.  This meant reading at least the first 20-50 pages, as I didn't want them to force themselves to read something they didn't enjoy.
The final homework was to write a postcard to the person who had recommended the book, telling them what parts they had enjoyed and maybe giving a suggestion of what else they might enjoy.  This last part was also a chance for students to be as artistic as they wanted, with some students handing in recreations of book covers or marvels of feathers and foam.

Interviewing Staff
I can't really take credit for this final idea, as it was suggested to me by the host form tutor.  However, it's a fantastic premise with lots of potential.  The form were asked to get into mixed age groupings (vertical tutoring is such an opportunity), and then given the brief:
"Choose two members of school staff to interview about their reading habits.  How you document these interviews is up to you, but you must produce something to display to the rest of the school on the VLE or on a noticeboard."

Students chose a variety of staff, from the head to the matron.  They then created their own questions (moderated by me) to ask the members of staff.  These were then recorded in different ways, according to the students' personal strengths (videos, podcasts, posters...).

The great thing about this project is that you get the school acting as a community of readers, sharing recommendations and their reasons for reading together.  You can also make it as small or large as fits your needs.

So that's it for my top three.  However, before I disappear off into the ether here are some other ideas (some mine, most not):
- Instead of lining up outside, students come in and start reading for pleasure for first ten minutes straight away.
- Getting students to visit to find books they might not have heard of before.  It's also a good site for staff/parents to use.
- Giving time for students to discuss what they're reading/have read with one another and share recommendations.
- Reading a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' book as a class and making the decisions together.
- 'Drop Everything And Read Day': at some point in the teaching day the bell will ring and all students and staff stop what they are doing to read in silence for 20 minutes.
- 'Rooted in Reading' passports (from @RealCBD).

Thanks for reading folks.  Enjoy the rest of term, and I hope that you all find time to read for pleasure in the holidays!