Over the last year I’ve been trying to develop myself as a reading teacher, and to pass this enthusiasm on to the children I teach. My first blog post on this, written in May, is here – this ramble will look at five things I’ve added to my classroom to try and enhance the children’s reading opportunities.
1. Making It Visible
Reading is everywhere in the classroom. We’ve used Ashley Booth’s author quotes and 100 books display materials, a small but comfortable reading area, visible reading journals (magpied from Lisa C on Twitter), and a display that shows my class’s reading journey.
This shows the variety of books that we’ve read as a class, during reading sessions and/or within learning across the curriculum.
Children have constantly referred back to books we’ve looked at previously, especially The Journey, which we looked at in September, and which I’m hoping will spark a love of picture books.
Our most successful reading fortnight was using The Last Wild – since then the book has permanently been in someone’s hand, while I was quietly pleased at hearing one of the boys saying he’d asked for all of Piers Torday’s books for Christmas.
2. The Shared Bookshelf
Each half term we are choosing a focus author. For the first half term, this was Lara Williamson, and currently it is Katherine Rundell. It makes sense to have their books available to the children during this time, as well as having one of their books as our class read, but I wondered whether the authors would be willing to share their own recommendations of books for children to read. Fortunately, after my pestering them on Twitter, they did so, offering books by authors such as Frank Cottrell Boyce, David Almond, Katherine Woodfine and Mark Haddon. The children were really keen to read books recommended by a REAL AUTHOR, and more often than not they are in the hands of a child rather than being on a shelf.
— Stephen Connor (@StephenConnor7) September 5, 2017
Further to this, I’ve added a shelf of my own recommendations, as well as a shelf for the 100 books list.
The children have their own shelf too…
3. Peer Recommendations #1
Their shelf has become a little crowded (a good thing). We are lucky to have a range of books to borrow from; the children use a parcel label to write a short blurb about a book they’ve enjoyed. It is wonderful to see children poring over these tiny (and now, slightly dog-eared) scraps of brown card as they find a book they might enjoy.
Some of the children’s recommendations left on the shelf for half term. The rest have been take by their friends for the break 👍📖pic.twitter.com/yrdFKi5paZ — Stephen Connor (@StephenConnor7) October 20, 2017
I’ve encouraged the writing of these recommendations for a range of reasons: firstly, to encourage the more reticent speakers to share their recommendations; to encourage ‘micro-writing’, restricting their summaries in order to be precise; and to share a range of books, not just those I’ve recommended or that are on reading lists. The range that children read is quite impressive once they’re given a platform to show it.
Jon Biddle has recently written a post on how he encourages the sharing of recommendations in his classroom, which is well worth a read.
4. Peer Recommendations #2 Every Friday, children are invited to talk in front of their peers and share a recommendation for a book they’ve read. This could be a recently-read book, a long-held favourite, fiction, non-fiction, poetry…anything really.
This came about fairly naturally as one girl asked if she could talk about Fortunately, The Milk…and immediately pointed to another girl and said, “I think you’ll love this because you have always loved funny books.’ Then another child talked about Kick, explaining the parts that he liked and how Real Madrid were mentioned a lot. Both books were taken that morning, and the children said they’d like to do that more often.
Our Reading Gladiators have been very vocal recently too, which I suppose is the ultimate aim – for them to be ambassadors for reading. They have plans as to what they can do to promote reading across the school, which has started with a small display for their favourite book.
5. Reading Questionnaires This year was the first in which I’ve ever asked my children about their reading preferences and habits, rather than just forcing books that I like down their throats. The reading questionnaires, available here from the OUP Reading for Pleasure site, have been an eye-opener, and I’d definitely encourage others to do it if they’re not already.
On the first day back, my class filled in their questionnaires. Some of the headlines:
- Half of the children said that they loved reading (more girls than boys), which was a good starting point
- 58% of the children saw themselves as good at reading (or better) – again this was more prevalent in girls
- 83% said that I came across as a teacher who enjoys reading
- when asked who they read to or with, the majority of children said they read with mum (30%), the next most popular being dad or their teacher (19% each)
- when asked to name 6 authors, seven children said they couldn’t do this. Of those that could, 52% of answers were Dahl, Walliams or Rowling.
I’ve since asked them to repeat the same questionnaire earlier this month:
- 62.5% of the children said they love reading – still a quite distinct boy/girl split
- 62.5% of the children saw themselves as good at reading (or better) – only a small shift, and included one boy who I’m sure would argue that water is not wet if I were to give him the chance
- 87.5% said that I came across as a teacher who enjoys reading
All small stuff, but the final two answers really gave me cause to smile. When asked who they read to or with, mum and dad now share equal weighting with 18% each. This is obviously a lower percentage than before, but it also meant that children were reading with other people too – the majority share here was 27% of the children reporting that they read with their friends. Grandparents and siblings also increased – might this show that children are reading more frequently, or at least discussing it more often?
Secondly, the author response. There was such a massive range of authors shared by the children here:
Dahl, Walliams and Rowling were now much less well-represented at only 19%. Other notable authors were Piers Torday, who, as previously mentioned, has been really well-received by my class; Lara Williamson, who was our first author and shared a Skype call with us; and Ali Benjamin, whose book our Reading Gladiators loved and have since not stopped talking about it.
The final two questionnaire responses are the ones that are giving me most hope that the love of reading we share in the classroom is spreading further afield.
I can’t wait for next term.