From bookcase to showcase
Read practical advice from Key Stage 2 teacher, Michelle Conway (Alexandra Primary School, Hounslow) on building a Reading for Pleasure culture.
Part 1: Reading Environments
At Alexandra, we aim to develop children’s love of words and language, enabling them to communicate effectively. We have invested in a new library and allocated time for book sharing and enjoyment. We have encouraged our parents to support their children’s reading via our school website.
From passive to passionate
Children viewed reading as a teacher-directed task; they were passive readers. Most were unaware of their reading preferences and lacked the confidence to express their views. I wanted to excite and enthuse the children about books. I needed to ignite a passion for sharing opinions and recommendations with their peers about the texts they were reading.
To achieve this I took inspiration from the Open University’s ‘Teachers as Readers’ research, in particular:
- Social reading environments
- Reading aloud
- Informal book talk, inside-text talk and recommendations
I repurposed an area of my classroom, to showcase book covers and create interest and curiosity, particularly for reluctant readers. Texts were rotated regularly so that children were immersed in a variety of genres and themes. I used shelving and storage to help children access and choose books easily. The addition of chairs, cushions and rugs enabled the children to build the association between reading and pleasure.
I conducted a pupil voice survey with my class and 100% said they preferred the new set-up. The addition of objects, including a crystal ball for predicting, made them more curious and active when choosing books.
Here’s what they said:
“If you can see the cover of a book, you can make predictions about what the book might be about.”
“If you are in a rush, or are a bit tired, it takes a lot of time and effort to pull each book out to look at it. If you can already see the cover, it makes it easier and more people will want to read books.”
Reflections and next steps
I found it interesting to see that even small changes could have a big impact on children’s reading habits. We have formed a working party to continue developing Reading for Pleasure across the school.
Part 2: Reading Recommendations
At Alexandra, reading is integral to our curriculum, which is anchored around high-quality texts. We choose key texts carefully to ensure that books are reflective of our diverse demographics and that children are engaged and excited by what they read. In addition, staff have been involved in a boroughwide project, steeped in Reading for Pleasure pedagogy.
Informal book talk
I brought in some of my favourite books and introduced them to the class, reading extracts and sharing what I loved about them. The books created a buzz and the children were encouraged to borrow and read them. After sharing my own reading journey, I asked the children to create a model of theirs to present to the class.
The eight reading strategies
Our whole class reading lessons focused on the Eight Reading Strategies:
- Making connections
- Forming predictions
- Determining importance
- Monitoring comprehension
- Fix-it strategies for comprehension barriers
The children developed language and skills required for comparing, evaluating, and making recommendations.
The recommendation station
Reading areas were further developed to include a recommendation station, where children rated books they read, using tallies. During weekly library visits, the children would present a book they loved using the reading strategies.
In a pupil voice survey, 96% of children said their peers influence their book choice. They have developed the language and confidence to talk about books and share their opinions. They are excited to read ‘that one book’ that everyone wants. One child said:
“It’s like a trend or fashion. If all your friends have read it and say it’s really good, it makes you want to read it so you don’t feel left out of the conversation.”
Reflections and next steps
Overall, the children have a better reading diet, requesting books from genres they would not previously have chosen. They can talk in detail about their preferences and considerations when choosing texts. We will continue to embed Reading for Pleasure across the school, supporting new teachers following the Get Hounslow Reading programme.