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Developing reading for pleasure beyond World Book Day

Mar 12th 2024

World Book Day each year is a chance to celebrate the wonder of books. Schools are great at marking the day through dressing-up, fun activities, assemblies and generally triumphing the wonder of books. Social media channels are filled with fabulous outfits, wonderous make-up, celebrity readers…it’s even mentioned on the TV.

But what happens next? How do we as educators continue to promote the wonder of books in our classes and with our pupils?

Creating a culture that celebrates reading is always on the agenda in schools. The national curriculum states that pupils should ‘be encouraged to read for pleasure’. The same document directly references reading for pleasure once more with the statement that ‘all pupils must be encouraged to read widely across both fiction and non-fiction…to establish an appreciation and love of reading’. Developing a reading culture in school where pupils choose to read and can develop strong reading habits requires a strategic approach. From our research and the work we do in schools, this is what we have come to learn.

Key Reading Strategies

  • Adults reading aloud quality, age-appropriate texts regularly to all year groups
  • Readily available texts
  • Book corners, welcoming reading areas and libraries
  • Recommendations from peers and adults

Teachers are integral to embedding reading for pleasure strategies. One of the most powerful ways to encourage reading for pleasure is for the adults in school to model reading. If adults can promote discussion around the books read aloud, this will help to develop pupil’s language capabilities which was recommendation number one on the EEF’s recent document on Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2. Try to set aside free reading time which allows adults to model reading their own books whilst pupils read too.

Yes, the school day is packed with every subject vying for time and space on the timetable but creating a culture of reading for pleasure doesn’t need large chunks of time.

The importance of giving time to reading for pleasure in school is magnified in Key Stage 2. As pupils get older, external demands for time allied to a tailing off of parents reading to their children at home can make it difficult to maintain established reading habits. The Reading Framework (July 2023) has a whole section titled ‘Teacher as Influencer’ which again highlights the importance of being reading role models. The paper also talks about peer influencers to recommend books and push one another out of their comfort zone in terms of reading choices. It takes time and work to build good reading habits, but ultimately, it’s key to success in establishing a culture of reading for pleasure.

Opportunities to Promote Reading for Pleasure

The activities and ideas below can be used in school to promote reading and encourage a love of books. Some ideas can be ongoing things to establish across the school whereas other suggestions may be done occasionally.

  • Book Club

Start a book club. This could be for individual year groups, key stages or priority groups in school. Take time to share ideas about authors and books. Perhaps choose an author of the week or month or maybe you could focus on non-fiction texts. Most importantly – read!

  • Stop, drop and read!

This a great way for the whole school to stop what they are doing, drop everything and read. Assign someone the responsibility of signifying when. You could use a bell, a whistle or maybe even an air horn! Everyone in school should get involved so brief any visitors to bring their book.

  • Secret Reader

This is something which is often used in EYFS but there’s no reason it couldn’t be rolled out across the whole school. All you need is a willing volunteer to bring in a book to share with the class. As well as reading the book, it is great for the secret reader to share why they chose their book and talk to the children about their own reading. You could ask family members as well as members of the school community to come in to read. Perhaps you could ask an author or local celebrity! Anyone who can come in, share a book and their love of reading with the pupils. But remember not to let the secret out before they arrive!

  • Read Wrap Return

Ask all the pupils in a given group to select a book of their choice and wrap it in brown paper. They then write a brief synopsis including a recommendation without giving away the title of the book. Pupils take the books home, unwrap and read their book before returning it to the original wrapping or re-wrapping the book with a newly worded recommendation and synopsis. With this, there is no way of judging each book by its cover!

Choosing to promote reading for pleasure in school will take some planning and buy-in from staff and leaders alike. The Reading Framework (July 2023) notes that schools that prioritise reading for pleasure ‘are determined to support all pupils to develop the habit of reading’ and they ‘recognise intrinsic motivation is more closely associated with reading achievement than extrinsic motivation’. Hopefully through the hard work of teachers and leaders in schools to create a culture of reading for pleasure, many more pupils will leave school with a desire to read and a love of books.

Have a look at these links with lots of useful information on reading for pleasure:

The National Literacy Trust

Reading for Pleasure – Teresa Cremin

The Book Trust

Lots of fabulous books for reading for pleasure are available from Peters. Take a look!

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