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World Book Day and beyond!

Laura Fraine speaks to school librarians about creating a year-round strategy to encourage reading for pleasure.


his month, schools in the UK have been involved in World Book Day, from the simplest doling out of £1 vouchers, to major whole school festivities. The event has become a staple in the school calendar and the annual celebration of reading for


Whether or not a child reads for enjoyment is a crucial factor in their wider achievement. Reading for pleasure has been shown to have a bigger impact on a child’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status (OECD, 2002). Children who enjoy reading are much more likely to read above the expected level for their age.

There is a recognition of the importance of reading for pleasure in Ofsted’s Moving English Forward report and the government’s draft curriculum for primary schools. Yet, a survey by Booktrust in 2012 found that just 39% of schools have a policy in this area.

The need to read goes beyond literacy skills. There isn’t a subject in the timetable that can’t be bolstered by wider reading. And those that learn at a young age the value of reading for pleasure exercise their imagination in a world without borders.

The Siobhan Dowd Trust is one of a number of organisations which works to encourage children to read. In 2012, the trust held a competition to find the schools which are most pro-active in encouraging reading for pleasure. I spoke to some of the winning librarians.

Creating a culture of reading

One thing that became clear when researching this article is that creating a culture of reading for pleasure is a whole-school practice, not simply the work of a dedicated librarian or English teacher.

The schools which excel in encouraging their pupils to read are the ones where all members of staff act as role models for reading. They run their own staff book group in their free time, and update the school notice-board with what they are reading, as in Tobermory High School. Or they have a policy whereby pupils can ask any member of staff what they are reading and they must be able to give them an answer. Or they run a staff and student book group with KS4 pupils, as they do in Old

Buckenham High School in Norfolk. ‘They are not going to be books that are available to younger children,’ says the school librarian Andrea Hassan. ‘We expect the students to be mature enough to handle them.’

Eileen Roberts is librarian at The Ravensbourne School in Bromley. Five years ago, her school introduced a policy that pupils must have a book of their choice with them at all times. Now reading makes the most of the gaps in the day. While waiting for the whole school to be seated in assembly, at the beginning and end of lessons, when a pupil has finished their work, the standard advice is, ‘get out your reading book’. Eileen says this simple policy ‘has made reading the norm in our school. It is unusual not to have a book on you, rather than the other way around’. She describes year 12 pupils who have now been bringing reading books to school for the past five years, for whom reading is a completely natural way of life.

Lindsey Blake is a library consultant, working with different schools through her company, LibraryLive. All Saints Junior School in Reading is one of the schools for which she provides librarian services. One of the first of the 24 Free Schools in the country, it currently has 40 pupils on its roll, with only space for 60 more. Head-teacher, Susannah Daniels, was adamant that a fantastic library should form the heart of the school, putting the case for library space over an ICT suite. The library is accessible from the playground, so that pupils can use it during break and lunch times and withdraw books themselves. ‘Reading is absolutely the central plank of that school,’ says Lindsey. ‘The library is this really beautiful room, while the staff room next door is grotty! I think that’s brilliant.’

All Saints Junior School, Reading. Making reading aspirational

Children love a challenge and there are numerous programmes which aim to bring a sense of natural competition to reading, including Kids’ Lit Quiz, a children’s literature competition for ages 10-13, and Read for My School, a new national schools competition for years 5 and 6, run by Booktrust and The Pearson Foundation.

Worle Community School, Weston-super-Mare. 8 Books for Keeps No.199 March 2013

Readathon encourages children to be sponsored for spending time reading. The sponsorship money is divided between CLIC Sargent, Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity and ReadWell, a children’s reading programme being rolled out across UK hospitals. Pupils can be as creative as they like when compiling their reading lists. Readathon co-ordinator Debbie Young says, ‘Cynics might think that children, especially reluctant readers, might be under-ambitious when compiling their reading list, but we find that they tend to stretch themselves. For example, one girl recently pledged to read all the Harry Potter books! But it’s not a contest to see who can read the most books, or the hardest books, or to be the fastest. It’s about reading at your own pace - this is one of the reasons it engages all children so effectively.’

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