Five ideas to get pupils reading

Written by: HTU | Published:

Promoting reading and improving literacy is an on-going challenge for all primary schools. Deputy head Martin Cooper looks at five approaches that have proven successful at his school

At Mile Oak, we believe that promoting literacy is really one of the most fundamental ways in which we can help children to learn. Literacy runs through every subject and not just English, where literacy is traditionally “taught”. It is at the heart of every subject and its importance cannot be stressed enough. 

The main challenge with a literacy strategy that runs through every part of the school curriculum, is that it can be difficult to implement. By its very nature, it involves so many people and departments and it needs everyone to be on board for it to truly succeed.

We have a range of schemes in place at Mile Oak to ensure that our approach to literacy works. We hope that these might inspire you and your school.

Get kids reading!

We have built our strategy on the ethos that children should read for pleasure and not just because it is part of the curriculum. In order to do this, we believe that the most important thing is to get to know each individual’s reading preferences, so that we can recommend books they will find personally appealing. 

Whether it is a comic or autobiography, we do not mind as long as the child will enjoy it. Keeping things fresh is important too. Over the years we have found that teachers have a tendency to encourage pupils to read books that they read and enjoyed when they were at school.

However, while authors like Roald Dahl remain firm favourites, there is definitely something to be said for refreshing your school’s book collection, providing titles that engage your pupil’s personal interests.

Obviously pupils will develop at different stages, so it is important to measure individual progress. We believe that “over-challenging” students can actually hinder their development and equally, “under-challenging” a child can also have a detrimental effect. As such, we need to provide books based on each student’s individual level – this helps us ensure we are supporting struggling readers and stretching advanced readers. 

Reward excellence

We use a Reading Champions scheme, which gives students different reading goals based on their progress and ensures that they continue to develop. We use bronze, silver and gold accolades as motivational tools. 

When children reach “gold” in the scheme, they are considered for induction to our Children’s Reading Walk of Fame which we introduced to reward exceptional reading (think Hollywood Walk of Fame minus the celebrities). 

The kids love it and it is a nice way to recognise excellence and inspire the others. We have also created a “Mile Oak Millionaire” certificate for students who read one million words or more. The pupils really respond to the competitive nature of this initiative and take pride in receiving the accolade. We currently have 22 children who have become “Millionaires”.

Drop everything and read

This is a scheme we use to keep everyone on their toes and ensure that they get time to read, no matter how busy they get. We use the school bell as the signal and pupils have to find a book and read for a set amount of time. What is so great about this is the spontaneity – the pupils respond really well to the surprise element. It’s good fun and we have found that the students approach this kind of reading in a totally different way to how they would approach a scheduled reading class.

Involve parents

In order for reading to become second nature to children, we encourage parents take an active role in their children’s literacy by reading with them as much as possible and following their success. Parents can attend events like “Bedtime reads” (where everyone reads while dressed in pyjamas), “Superhero workshops” (aimed primarily at dads, this event is focused on reading superhero books), and Reading Aloud Afternoons, where parents read to their children. 

Children take a quiz, using our literacy software, when they have finished a book and parents can be alerted by email to let them know how well their child did. This is a great way of involving parents and keeping them up-to-date on what books their children are enjoying at school. 

Run a book bus

Our book bus goes from class to class, so children can be picked up and taken to a reading session by the school’s team of “busketeers”. It all adds a fun element to reading time and the pupils enjoy the novelty of it. We also issue “Caught Reading” raffle tickets when pupils are caught reading in unlikely places like the playground. 

Ticket holders then receive a prize. Finally, we assign older students to mentoring programmes, which include one-to-one sessions with younger pupils, and also run regular special assemblies and presentations, particularly around the theme of reading, so that the whole school can get involved.

  • Martin Cooper is deputy head of Mile Oak Primary School in Brighton, which uses Renaissance Learning’s Accelerated Reader to give teachers a picture of each child’s reading ability.

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