Reading is widely regarded as a fundamental cornerstone of a child’s education. It underpins success across all subjects, and is one of the most important precursors to long term academic and professional success.
Despite these incontrovertible benefits, asking children to read can sometimes be likened to asking them to eat their vegetables. Deep down they know they’re not that bad (and sometimes, really quite good!), but it can still be a bit of a struggle!
It is therefore an ongoing challenge for schools and educators across the world to encourage children to read and to make the most of the numerous advantages it brings.
Here are five things we have done at Rugby School Thailand to establish a positive reading culture.
1 – Give children a voice.
Giving the students an opportunity to impact our reading strategy has been vital to helping us fully understand the barriers to reading regularly and enjoying doing so. We sent out a comprehensive survey to all of our students. The answers to this directly influenced our decision making in a number of areas, including: timetabling, purchasing and organisation of reading material, to name a few.
2 – Make quality time.
At our school (and most others!), time is a valuable commodity. Following the British ‘Prep School’ model, at RST we have a 10.5 hour day as standard. This gives us the opportunity to fully engage students in a range of activities, whilst also ensuring all of our children are tired and ready to relax by the time they get home!
Our survey informed us that over 75% of the time children would read after school – after a very long day! This led to reading understandably being seen as ‘homework’ or a ‘chore’ by some.To counteract this, we have created a dedicated reading slot within the school day, every day. During this time, every child in the school sits down, gets comfortable and has quality time to read. Students can also use our library at various times throughout the school day.
3 – Access to a range of high quality texts.
Ensuring our library is stocked with books that would engage the interests of our diverse, international learning community has been vital. The old adage, ‘there is a book for everyone’ was at the forefront of our thinking when asking students which books they would like to see in our library. These student suggestions, coupled with additional, carefully selected texts, refreshed our shelves and the selection of books available.
Additionally, our library has been ‘re-genrelised’; books are now arranged into genre specific sections for each Key Stage. In Key Stage 2, our genres range from ‘Mystery’ to ‘Realistic Fiction’ and in Key Stage 3, ‘Dystopian’ and ‘Gothic’ literature are firm favourites!
Students told us they often struggled to find the right book, so they would ‘just choose anything’. They now find our new system easy to navigate and can relate their interests in life to their reading choices.
4 – Guidance.
In weekly library sessions, English teachers engage in quality ‘Book Talk’ with every student. Reading choices are discussed and enjoyment and understanding are checked. Staff, including our wonderful librarian, are on hand to suggest choices with students as they search for their next engaging read!
5 – Continued motivation.
We are still continuing to think of new ideas and exciting ways to engage our students in reading. Currently, we are embedding the Accelerated Reader programme into our library and curriculum. This is designed to make a more tangible link between reading a wide variety of books for pleasure and academic progress.
School-wide reading challenges (like the 1,000,000 minute challenge) also help raise the profile of reading for our whole community.
The ideas above have helped us improve our culture of reading and vastly increase the engagement of our students; we hope they give you some ideas for inspiring young readers in your home/school, too.
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