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Reading for Pleasure – Flint High – KS3

Jun 13th 2022

Reading for pleasure. For an English teacher like me, those words go together like Romeo and Juliet, George and Lennie and Charlie and Nick (if you know, you know!). But sadly, for many teenagers today, for a huge variety of reasons, the words reading and pleasure are more of an oxymoron.

So as teachers, what can we do to change this and can it make a difference?

Be a reading role model

This is everything. For some pupils, you may be the only person in their life who promotes reading to them. Talk to your classes about anything and everything you are reading and ask them to do the same. Do so with passion and joy. It’s infectious! It’s free. And it makes a huge difference.

Read fiction aimed primarily at children and young adults as regularly as you can

I decided quite some time ago that in order to be able to encourage my pupils to read, I really needed to develop my awareness of books aimed at their age group. I am so glad I did! It has opened up a whole new world of favourite books and authors for me, and more importantly, it has generated some fantastic conversations and allowed me to recommend some absolutely wonderful books.

Get to know your pupils as readers

Opening up a dialogue with the young people in my classes has been an instrumental part of my mission. Creating a culture where it’s okay to talk about reading without fear of judgement has been so important. Whether pupils love reading, hate it or are somewhere in between we have talked about it together. At times, we have broken down barriers about reading together too.

Make reading desirable

Installing a book vending machine is hands down THE most exciting thing we have done to promote reading at my school. From the personalised design, to the pupils themselves selecting the books they wanted to see in it from a local independent bookshop, to the unbelievable buzz surrounding it when it was installed. Pupils want to be rewarded with a book from it. Reading is officially cool. Have a look at our twitter feed to see our pupils receiving their books: @flint_english.

Get creative and competitive

Introducing competitions linked to reading has been a really valuable way of not only promoting reading but also gauging interest. These have often been linked to our school literacy calendar and set around the more obvious key dates, such as Roald Dahl Day, National Poetry Day and World Book Day. However, our most popular competition to date was our reading advent calendar where throughout December we shared a slide a day introducing a book and detailing its blurb. If pupils liked the sound of a book, they had the chance to win it by entering a prize draw outlining why they wanted to do so. The creation of our own reading for pleasure challenge has also been very popular. Our latest competition asks pupils, on a weekly basis, to identify the book and author from a tiny section of the front cover. The most important part of these competitions though has been the lovely book talk that they have inspired.

Use any and every opportunity to link to reading

Kindness Day, Pride Month, Anti-Bullying Week. You’ll find a book to suit all of these. Books offer a fantastic opportunity to talk about these important issues and a whole load more. They can also promote empathy and acceptance and allow people to feel seen. Recommending books for emotional literacy is a wonderful way to encourage pupils to read. Keeping an eye on things like streaming platforms can also offer a way in to reading, such as the latest Heartstopper craze. The excitement surrounding the accompanying books in our school was huge so adding them to our reading stock was a no brainer!

Social media can also be helpful with BookTok for example gaining great popularity amongst teenagers as well as adults.

No teacher is an island

Finally, involve others in your reading for pleasure mission. I am fortunate enough to have a senior leadership team and head of department who are just as passionate about and committed to boosting reading for pleasure as I am which is essential. But allowing pupils to see that reading for pleasure isn’t just something that English teachers promote is an important message to communicate. Reading benefits everybody. Indeed, research suggests that reading for enjoyment is more important for a child’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status. Our Science team invested in some fun non-fiction Science related texts that have gone down a storm. But displaying posters and talking about reading in other subjects can also be good starting points that make a worthwhile and effective contribution.

Making contact with authors can also be a really exciting way to boost the profile of reading at school. Having the work of pupils endorsed by the person who wrote the book they have been studying gives them a huge boost and sparks interest. Even better, if you have the budget to, get them to do an online or in-person visit, and they can answer the questions that your pupils have devised. Our most recent plan is to create a reading library for parents in our main entrance. The ways to involve others really are endless and offer a great opportunity to get creative!

Nicola Paulson

English teacher and Literacy Co-ordinator

Flint High School

Twitter – flint_english

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