Christine Elrick, Leader of Learning at Westoe Crown Primary School in South Shields, and founder of LOOK for a BOOK North East England, shares with us how important reading for pleasure is for children and how she has created a culture for reading in her school.
A love-hate relationship
Reading. It’s a funny old thing. Either kids love it or hate it. A class, of any age, when you ask them to “get out their reading books” will range from utter joy and happiness to despair, distress and depression. Have you ever wondered why? I have. Most days of my 18 years in the classroom.
Finding my own love of reading
As a Literacy Lead in a large primary school, you can imagine I love reading. I do! I utterly adore reading books and the journey they can take you on (I also love smelling books, but that’s a whole different blog). However, this wasn’t always the case. I remember trying to read as a child. I COULD read but in honesty would rather be playing out, drawing things, and trying to grow butterflies from caterpillars in jars. The things you did growing up in the ’80s, but just not reading. When it came to reading I had the concentration span of a gnat.
Then one day my teacher started reading to the class. It was a new class novel. This was the time of day, as a carefree seven year old, I would daydream; gaze out of the window and wonder what delights my dad would be rustling up for tea when I got home. It was that very day my love for books started. Miss Dickinson (my ‘second-year infants’ teacher!) started to read Roald Dahl’s ‘Danny Champion of the World’ and suddenly I was hooked. I walked home thinking about the story, dreaming of what his life was like. Drawing the pheasants that were stolen and wondering what would happen next. I found an author I completely loved.
The power of reading for pleasure
So how does this story help in the grown-up world of being a teacher? Well, it makes me realise that if children roll their eyes when it’s time to read their spark hasn’t yet been ignited. Their ‘Danny moment’ hasn’t happened yet. It is so important for children to read for pleasure to enable them to be taken on journeys and lose themselves in a good book. This is not just for educational purposes but also for enjoyment and mental wellbeing. They need to be exposed to many different genres; many different authors and a plethora of topics to find what it is they really enjoy.
Creating a reading culture in school
I’m an absolute advocate for reading for pleasure! In our primary school, we have a book vending machine, “The Imagination Station”, children win gold coins and in return they can choose a brand-new book of their own to keep. This incentive has been so popular for the last two years that they strive to win. They hold their books like the Olympic torch with such pride and excitement, it’s amazing to see.
Improving reading comprehension
We also use Reading Plus across the whole of KS2. This has proven to increase reading levels, progress, and attainment in school. The children love the variety of genres they can choose to read from and the quick quizzes at the end of each one. They are very competitive and love comparing ‘combos’ and the like! The encouragement it gives them, and that they give each other, is phenomenal.
Exploring the world through books
Two years ago, I created my own social media sensation with Look for A Book North East England, after seeing a similar group elsewhere. This is a simple way of encouraging reading for pleasure. You hide a book somewhere in your town you have already read or look for new ones that others have hidden – a real-life game of book hide and seek. The Facebook group currently stands at over 52,000 book-loving members (look it up on Facebook and join if you haven’t already). That many people surely can’t be wrong!
So, is Danny Champion of the World still my favourite book? No. But that was the book that ignited the fire inside of me. I hope one day we can ignite the fire in every child. I wonder what your next class novel will be?
We hope you enjoyed reading our guest blog from Christine. If you would like to feature as a guest author, or for more information on how Reading Plus impacts reading for pleasure, please contact us today using the form below.