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Building a reading school

Building a reading school

Recently, I delivered a training day at the Book Centre focusing on how to create a reading school. It was a really productive day and I thought I would share some of the main elements that were focused upon and offer further ideas about how to bring reading to life in your school!

It was agreed that there were a number of key elements that would help schools develop:

  • It was essential to support teachers to develop themselves
  • To ensure that the teaching of reading was based on sound pedagogic theory and that all teachers had an understanding of the different elements of this;
  •  To develop the reading environments throughout the school, including the library area, to ensure that all pupils are supported as readers;
  •  To share the latest texts that can be used to engage pupils and teach.

To audit current practice to find out if the school is already a reading community
There are a number of really effective tools that can be used to find out what the current reading climate is within the school. One that I have used, for a number of years, came from the ‘Reading Connects Handbook’ that can be read on line at—national-literacy-trust


Another very effective audit tool can be found on the National Literacy Trust website. Teachers and pupils can also be given a questionnaire to find out how they saw themselves as readers. Here is one that I created:


Developing teacher’s knowledge in reading:
There are a number of very good texts that can be read by teachers to extend their knowledge of the teaching of reading and learn more about the pleasure that high quality texts can bring.
pic1Teaching English by the Book – Putting Literature at the Heart of the Primary by James Clements
This is a very readable textbook written by James Clements, who is the creator of the website, which is packed with ideas for transforming children’s attitudes to reading and writing.
The book has chapters showing teachers how to use high quality books and poems to develop and enhance a text-based curriculum. These ideas are immediately useable in the classroom and will help teachers develop a real love of reading.

pic-2Guided readers – Layers of meaning – A handbook for teaching comprehension to 7 – 11 year olds by Wayne Tennent, David Reedy, Angela Hobsbaum and Nikki Gamble

This book gives teachers the theoretical backbone to underpin the effective teaching of reading comprehension, as well as eleven in-depth case study to draw upon in their own teaching. It explores how fiction and non-fiction, poetry and picture books, advertising and film can be used to support children’s critical thinking and deeper reading skills.


Developing children’s critical thinking through picturebooksMary Roche

This book gives teachers really sound advice about how to use picture books to develop their pupils’ oral language ability, critical thinking and visual literacy. It offers the reader an overview of recent international research and methodically explores how this can underpin effective teaching and learning.
Roche discusses how children make-meaning together, through thinking and discussion. It shares a range of carefully chosen picture books and gives practical advice about how to use them to develop children’s literary understanding.

Building communities of engaged readers – Reading for Pleasure Teresa Cremin, Marilyn Mottram, Fiona Collins, Sacha Powell & Kimberly Safford

This informative text explores how schools can develop their practice to ensure that reading for pleasure is at the heart of their learning community. It examines the shift in the focus of control and new social spaces that encourage reader’s choice. The Rights of the Reader make compelling reading and we left thinking about the identity of the reader in the 21st century. We are left contemplating the importance of the relationships between children, teachers, families and communities to help them develop as readers. The Reading for Pleasure debate is enhanced by this text.
Developing the reading environments around school:
By developing the shared reading areas around the school and the book areas within classrooms, pupils will see the importance of reading and feel inspired to be part of their reading community.This begins in EYFS, where reading plays such an important part in the learning:

pic6 pic7Whitefield Infant, Nelson.

Many schools have been celebrating reading by displaying the range of books that pupils might enjoy reading:

Higher Openshaw Community Primary, Oldham

Other schools are giving their pupils a challenge to read 100 carefully chosen books before they leave at the end of KS2.
Many schools are creating doorways to learning, so that all pupils are bathed in a broad range of stimulating books as they move around their school:


Whitefield Infant, Nelson.

Book-based learning displays are also another way of sharing the love of wonderful texts with all the pupils:


Ellenbrook Primary, Salford

Displays around the school should show pupils how important reading is to enhancing their curriculum.


Whitefield Infant, Nelson.

Children should be encouraged to share their love through book recommendations:


Creating and sharing fire about books is a great way to get children enthusiastic. This is done very effectively in Holcombe Brook Primary School, Bury where the pupils are encouraged to give recommendations to each other. There is also a waiting list that the pupils have created that captures the sharing of the love of reading.


Teachers could also share their love of books through discussing their own recommendations. This display is a great way to show how what teachers to read when they were children and start a dialogue about book choices and life long-reading:


St Anthonys Primary, Manchester

There are so many books that can help fuel that love of reading. Having regular Dazzle boxes from Madeleine Lindley can ignite a regular discussion about the latest texts. There are so many texts that there is something for everyone:


A great way to keep abreast of the current texts that are available is to look at the latest reading award winners. These might include:
UKLA Book Awards
Carnegie Medal
Blue Peter Book Awards
Kate Greenaway Awards (picture books)
Costa Book Awards
Red House Children Awards
Excelsior Award Junior (graphic novels and manga)
Lollies (Laugh out Loud book awards)
Young People’s Book Prize (science)

Other ways to share the love of reading:
• Whole school joining of the local library.
• Regular school assemblies on different book themes, picture books, specific authors, non-fiction texts and poetry.
• Visits from authors, poets and illustrators throughout the years.
• Book festivals to open the door to the wider community.
• Reading in all sorts of places, even dog’s homes!


Higher Openshaw Community Primary School

  • Weekly family reading café to encourage parents to come into school and read with their pupils on a regular basis:pic19

    Higher Openshaw Community Primary School

Reading evenings, where parents are invited to come into the school to meet the different teachers who share displays of their favourite books or topics:









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