Today I’m doing a short INSET session for King’s School, Worcester. The problem is in the word “short”. What this means is that I’ll pack in a vast amount of stuff about the science and thinking behind why R4P is an essential and not a luxury but have no time actually to guide as to how to make it happen. Hence, this post. This is a whole-staff session so there’ll be the whole range of teaching professional, from those who already feel that reading is part of their remit to those who don’t. There’ll be individuals who already love reading and see the value of doing it for pleasure and those who see it only as a means to a) learning to read, b) learning stuff and c) indulging in a luxurious hobby. By the end of it, I hope to have convinced them all that there really is a point, both for their students and for themselves.
And here are the missing “how to do it” bits. Or at least some starting points, because you’re all tired and you don’t want another 1.5 hours fast-paced lecture from me.
Excuse typos – I’ll sort them later. Just need to get this out first.
How to promote Reading for Pleasure in your school or family
- If you have time for nothing else, see this post here, in which I describe an activity to encourage groups of children to read more for pleasure.
- Or take a look at this handout, which describes it in another way and is printable: R4P Benefits Activity
- After you’ve done that (or found another context in which to discuss desired benefits), try this, especially before a holiday: MY Reading for Pleasure PLEDGE
- For an activity to show readers how reading can help reduce stress before bedtime, try the ReadaxationDiary
- Two core handouts of mine:TIPS TO ENCOURAGE READING
- Here are some great tips from Book Trust: www.booktrust.org.uk/news-and-features/features/2017/october/teacher-top-tips-how-to-get-every-child-reading-for-pleasure/
- The UK’s Reading Agency has a wealth of resources and runs various activities such as the Summer Reading Challenge. See here: https://readingagency.org.uk/news/blog/reading-for-pleasure-in-schools.html
- This, from the UK Literacy Association, is aimed at parents and is quite detailed, but you might find it informative: https://ukla.org/resources/details/promoting-reading-for-pleasure
- Activities such as DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) and ERIC (Everyone reads in Class) are wonderful but here is how, in my view, NOT to do this: www.burgettstown.k12.pa.us/cms/lib05/PA01000191/Centricity/Domain/149/DEAR_Description.pdf Notice how many times the phrase “are required” comes up! The more prescriptive you are, the more you are likely to appeal to some children but drive others away, including those you most want to inspire.
- I urge you to do everything to avoid sending out the message that reading for pleasure is something that young people must do because it’s good for them but adults don’t need to. So, when you have a reading opportunity for your class or group, the adults should join in. Otherwise it sends out a message that undermines the point that reading is a positive thing to do.
- Remember that some people won’t like reading in a group: if it’s a group activity, ideally they should still join in and at least try it for a few sessions but after that I see no problem in them doing something like a puzzle, or drawing instead, as long as they read somewhere else on their own.
WHAT ABOUT RELUCTANT READERS?
As someone who has a background in dyslexia teaching and a diploma in Specific Learning Difficulties, I’m very aware of the challenges facing you when you want to encourage reluctant or struggling readers to read. It’s similar to the challenges of getting exercise-haters to take up exercise. In both cases, it’s difficult for the same reason: we typically don’t find ourselves motivated to do what we don’t enjoy. In my INSET session I’ll have spent some time talking about motivation theory.
- Little, often and easy – find short books that are too easy and only aim for a very short session at a time. Don’t set the bar too high – it’s already high.
- Try paired reading – where you read alongside or alternately with the child, filling in any tricky word and not allowing more struggle than the child can enjoy.
- Audio books are great – the child is still using visual imagination, building language skills and, crucially, accessing all the vocab, imagination and benefit that a reader would be.
- Seek narrative non-fiction – lots of struggling readers don’t relate to imaginative writing but love factual writing, so they can enjoy true stories, eg biography, true crime, historical events.
- Fact-based novels (eg historical) – again, novels that are rooted in true things can appeal to many readers in a way that more imaginative fiction might not.
- Facts about/behind fiction – reading about a book can inspire a reader to try the book; many reluctant readers like to discover about the author or how the author found the story.
- Hi/Lo – eg Barrington Stoke – interest but low-reading level books, such as those published by Barrington Stoke (and others) are brilliant for these readers, as they can practise on easy text but text that doesn’t talk down to their intellect and interest level.
- Would they enjoy reading a book to a young child? I’ve come across great schemes where older teenagers who don’t like reading go to a reception class and help them read picture books. Wonderful results occur!
- Never undermine or judge their choice – no one likes to have their reading choice undermined but if you do this to a reluctant reader you can lose them forever.
- Encourage, encourage, encourage. This is a very difficult thing they’re doing and every effort should be praised.
But do be very, very careful:
Happy reading for pleasure!