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I’ve been on a one-woman mission to try and get my students passionate about reading for some time now. Through showcasing my own passion and love for literature, and talking to students about their interests and hobbies I have slowly been opening up avenues of reading for them which they will hopefully enjoy and stick to. I was thrilled to discover last week that our department have put reading firmly back on the agenda for our year 8 and 9 students specifically in a bid to boost reading ages for all. We’ve been tasked with trialling and reporting back on the effectiveness of a variety of reading strategies with all of our classes but have been given total autonomy on how we approach the task.

I set out with my lower ability year 8 group to stage a series of reading activities based on a short story that I read to them. They took to it considerably well, so bouyed by our success I’m sticking to this strategy with this particular group.

It’s fair to say I was nervous about tackling ‘reading’ with my year 9s. They are reluctant learners at the best of times and the very prospect of asking them to sit quietly with book in hand for half a whole lesson filled me with dread. I was forced to face my fear last week off the back of an IT issue where I lost my planned lesson. “To hell with it,” I mused, and armed myself with my self-made box of books and magazines and walked briskly and purposefully into our classroom. I told them straight up what the plan was, and as I called their names on the register they were to come and select reading material from the box. One by one they all became armed and returned to their seats to fumble and finger through pages of pictures and text.

I told them they had to read for 10 minutes in silence and give their books “a good go”. If after that time they really couldn’t get into it then they could swap it. I took up a book myself and sat in the back corner of the room watching my wristwatch and passively reading. 5 minutes – still quite. 10 minutes – still quiet. 15 minutes later and the room was still reading. I decided to time them; leave my readers undisturbed until they naturally became restless and started to chat to each other. Taking this as my cue I then asked them to talk to their neighbour about what they had read whilst I circulated the room and asked them for their opinion on the lesson. By and large they all said they were happy but would be happier if we could have short bursts of reading segmented by different activities, not unlike the structure I had tested on my year 8s. It was a wonderfully co-operative period and my fears were more than allayed.

Now I have the students on board, but I had more of a struggle with colleagues. I was disappointed to learn that 3 students had been returned to my room empty-handed from the library. The librarian had turned them away because she could register loans due to the aforementioned IT failures – all computers and networks were down. If I’d have been able to leave the room I would have challenged her about this: what’s wrong with a good old-fashioned pen and paper to record loans? Surely it is better to have students with books in hand than not, particularly with our department focus? I’m going to take this up with her when I see her, because I just think it’s sending them the wrong message. And I don’t want to feel like I am once again on a one-woman mission to get our kids reading.

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