UKLA Project Teachers as Readers: Building Communities of Readers 2007-8 in Birmingham

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Purpose

This UKLA project was framed so as to help teachers understand the significance of reading for pleasure in the progression and development of young readers. It also sought to help teachers recognise their role as professionals in planning for and nuturing children's independent reading for pleasure by:

- Widening their knowledge of children's literature in order to support indpendent reading for pleasure.

- Developing their confidence and skilful use of such literature in the classroom in order to foster reading for pleasure.

- Developing their relationships with parents, carers, librarians and families in order to support independent reading for pleasure.

- Understanding the value of becoming a Reading Teacher: a teacher who reads and a reader who teaches in order to support independent reading for pleasure.

Key audience

Teachers

About the project

The professional development project, run through a combination of local and national sessions and ongoing action research has given the teachers more confidence and knowledge when it comes to children's literature. Teachers are not only aware of the need to use a range of literature, but more crucially conscious of using texts that reflect and build upon the experiences of their pupils. This has led to some of the teachers seeing the benefit of introducing their pupils to the lives/cultures of children around the world. Teachers were also challenged to develop their reading environments to make them more appealing, to establish independent reading time, use a wider range of texts, including comics and magazines for example and to read aloud regularly to their classes.

The focus in Birmingham has been on extending and developing teachers’ knowledge and use of global literature. We used the QCA ‘Reading Differences’ information to begin the process. We also purchased relevant, more up to date texts.

Activities include:

- Reading Rivers

- Reading Bags

- Individual Reading Plans

- Creating class/school displays of recommended books

- Pupil reading groups

- Book presentations

- Pupil research groups

- Book blogs

- Paired reading with younger pupils/Friendship groups

- Audio books – including activities (chosen by pupils) to raise funds for audio books and reading group readers – ‘running for reads’, cake baking.


A ‘Reading for Pleasure’ Network, for those teachers in Birmingham who really want to move this agenda forward in their schools has been established – over 30 teachers have registered to take part in the network in the autumn term.


Remaining challenges for Birmingham

- Continuing to embed the work across the school.

- Teachers are certainly reading more adult literature; the challenge is for them to continue to include more children’s text in their reading diets.

Evidence of impact

‘The Reading Rivers made me reassess what children are reading in this hi-tech age.’

‘One of our pupils from a home that we considered supportive said that he preferred reading at school because he only has two books at home….we now give books to our children at every opportunity’

The teachers have definitely extended their confidence and skilful use of literature. One teacher was reluctant to discuss books with his class as he had a very challenging class in terms of their behaviour. Activities including the ‘Reading Rivers’, ‘Reading Bags’ and the use of ‘Individual Reading Plans’, gave him the confidence to plan a range of activities. These included reading aloud, using global texts, and writing adverts to promote books. He’s now more confident in choosing books that will appeal to the children in the class. He also reported a change in some pupil’s behaviour.

Links with libraries has been very successful in some schools and less so in others. One primary school has got every child in the school to join the local library.

Schools Library Service working more closely with Primary Strategy Consultants, to promote the new ‘Boys into Books’ initiative.

The project has definitely developed a strong group of reading teachers. They all rated their subject knowledge about children’s literature as higher than at the start of the project. All teachers have used this knowledge to develop children as readers. They all make recommendations now and because they are sharing their reading preferences with pupils, ‘booktalk’ has increased,

In terms of impact on attainment, the initial date from focus pupils is extremely positive in all, where focus was on engaging boys in reading for pleasure, all the target pupils have made much greater than expected progress – which is about more than just raw data though. The pupils are now initiating booktalk. They are choosing to read and the initial ‘stigma’ around boys reading has disappeared.

There has also been impact on perceptions of themselves as readers, as well as enjoyment of books.

‘D and B, 2 of Year 6’s more challenging pupils went missing after school one day. Search parties went out, but they turned up safely having decided to drop in at the library on the way home’.

Improved writing has also been greatly affected by the project. One parent commented ‘What have you done to her, she’s writing stories now’ (This is a child who hated reading, would only read at home if coerced – she is now choosing to read and write fiction at home).

Key messages

- If we want to improve writing in our schools, reading for pleasure has to be seen as a major driver, not a bolt on.

- All schools should have a teacher who ‘champions’ reading for pleasure across the school. This person will ensure that it doesn’t slip off the agenda.

- ‘Teachers as Readers, Readers as Teachers’ is a mantra all teachers need to embed. Teachers are so powerful in terms of their influence on the reading behaviour of the pupils in their classroom…..teachers will get back from their pupils what they give.

- Promoting reading for pleasure needs to be embedded in the School Improvement Plan. For it to have whole school impact, it has to be part of the school ethos.

Who runs the project

The project Teachers as Readers: Building Communities of Readers was run by a team from the United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA) working with Local Authority co-ordinators from Birmingham , Barking and Dagenham, Suffolk, Medway and Kent . The Birmingham project is run by the City Council – Children, Young People and Families, School Effectiveness Division.

Partners

Libraries

Family Learning Service

Schools

Contact details for project

Birmingham contact: sonia.thompson@birmingham.gov.uk

Website links for more information

For details of the initial survey of 1200 teachers' knowledge of children's literature see www.ukla.org [1]

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