“I will say a prayer, just while you are sitting there
I will wrap my hands around you
I know it will be fine
We’ve got a fantasy affair
We didn’t get wet, we didn’t dare
Our aspirations, are wrapped up in books
Our inclinations are hidden in looks”
Wrapped up in books Belle and Sebastian
In primary school books are the most important tools we have at our disposal . What worries me is we seem to have lost the time to explore them…The time to talk about them…the time to make links and connections to our knowledge…the time to draw in the pieces and make our own sense of them.
Question… How much time do you give to children talking about books?
Sadly I see loads of comprehension activities online. Lots of comprehension questions that create one answer. What I rarely see however is people talking about children talking about books in their classroom.
There is currently an ongoing debate about whole class reading and guided reading…not even going there as actually they do different things and great guided reading is still probably the most powerful tool we have at moving children’s reading forward (please don’t confuse the flippin’ carousel with guided reading)
What I think is being lost however are the climates in our classroom’s where we can talk about books. The Reading for Pleasure agenda seems to have been sidelined in the need to improve test scores. Reading in our classrooms seems to be driven more by how children answer a question rather than whether they enjoy reading.
Question…Do you let children explore their understanding about books?
It is however there in black and white as part of the National Curriculum.
“The national curriculum for English aims to ensure that all pupils: read easily, fluently and with good understanding. develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information. … use discussion in order to learn; they should be able to elaborate and explain clearly their understanding and ideas.”
National curriculum 2014
Like many schools, we identified that under achievement in reading impacts on children’s progress across the curriculum. Whether due to reluctance or an inability to read, it remains a barrier to their learning. We had to stop and ask ourselves some key questions and ask ourselves some hard truths.
(Tip personally I think if you get the second right then you get the first)
Ask a secondary colleagues about which kind of reader they would want transitioning to them, pretty sure they’ll tell you it’s a child who is curious about books and enjoys reading.
There are some problem inherent in this and the answer isn’t as simple as your heart would suggest. There are some pupils who may never truly be switched on by reading. Teachers need to KNOW about books. If teachers don’t know about books then how can we hope for them to be able to drive those more open conversations about books.
This won’t just happen by chance. If you want teachers to be knowledgeable about books you have to give that the time it needs to happen. Teachers need to talk books and share books as much as the children do. Having an advocate that drives this is key.
Top Tips in creating a Reading for Pleasure and Purpose (thanks Alex) climate
- Read to your class everyday (Make it a valuable time not a throwaway time, make it special.)
- Make books an integral part of your curriculum. (Encourage exploration)
- Guide but don’t limit (Don’t be snobby, doors can be gateways they often offer way more than we think they do)
- Teacher Readers (Knowledgeable staff being a role-model for pupils, make time for this to become a reality)
- Escapism (Give children time to just immerse themselves in a book)
- Time for talk (Create opportunities to talk about books, not ask questions but genuinely talk about books)
- Books ahoy! (Make your school swim with books)
- All aboard (Does your SLT make it important) Primary reading – ten questions (excellent document for SLT from the North Yorkshire Literacy Team)
- Involve parents. (Getting parents onboard is ultimately the key)
- Think about knowledge that will help children dig into a book more effectively (knowing stuff around the book they’re reading helps them explore better)
I’ve also included a link to the CLPE reading scale, it’s a fantastic document for helping you think about the needs of individual readers and well worth a look if you haven’t seen it.
Finally from Michael Rosen courtesy of @jdurran
a) We should make time for asking questions for which we don’t have an answer.
b) If ever asking questions for which we do have an answer, we must ask ourselves why are we asking?!
Now stop reading this and go and read…your choice.