Last week was the English department’s favourite time of the year: Book Week! This year, we really want to push reading, with a particular focus on reading for pleasure and the immense positive effects it can have on our young learners. With that in mind, we wanted this year’s Book Week to be the best the school had ever seen!
We had a variety of activities running throughout the week, including ‘Drop Everything and Read!’ and peer reading to Primary students.
For 15 minutes each day, English teachers would hit the corridors with a megaphone to encourage students (and teachers!) to drop everything and read! This was important in reminding the students that as important as curriculum is, students of all ages and key stages, should be reading every day in an effort to improve their language skills and independence. Students should be reading for 20 minutes every day at home, ideally before bed. This will not only improve their vocabulary and grammatical accuracy, but help them to improve their understanding of the world around them and original thinking skills.
During their Monday and Tuesday English lessons, Year 7 and Year 8 went down to Primary to help inspire the younger students to read. There was a real buzz in Primary as the Secondary students read aloud to their partners, whilst asking them questions and encouraging them to show a deeper understanding of the stories they were reading. We would encourage all of our secondary students to read English books aloud at home as it will improve their focus and pronunciation. Our rigorous IB curriculum includes a variety of speaking and listening assessments; we would encourage students to start practicing their English spoken word skills on a regular basis from as early as Year 7.
We understand that there are a variety of distractions that prevent teenagers from reading: games consoles, homework and social media to name a few. The best cure for this is finding a book that is simply impossible to put down! During Book Week, we launched ‘Reading Doctor’ sessions, where our two English Subject Ambassadors, Jess Lee and Yu Cheng Chow, helped to prescribe books to our reluctant readers. This worked fantastically well, with one of our Year 9 ‘patients’ saying, “My book is amazing! It’s like the Hunger Games! The Doctor chose just right!” The library now has a wide range of books from a variety of different genres that are suitable for all abilities: students can sign up with the Reading Doctor every Wednesday to ensure that they find the right one for them.
On Friday, Year 8 went to the library for a ‘Blind Date with a Book!’ The librarians had wrapped up 80 books and levelled and identified them according to ability and genre. Students checked out a book and then got to unwrap their choice, revealing what was inside. There was total focus around the library as the students were carefully selecting and unwrapping their mystery books. Witnessing nearly 70 students sat in silence, reading their choices, was something that I will always remember and was an incredibly rewarding thing to see; a true highlight of my teaching career. Students should be trying to read these over the next few weeks and be giving a review to the librarian when they are returned. The idea of this activity was to teach students not to judge a book by its cover. It is important to try a variety of different genres and authors to allow for maximum benefits from reading.
We had an incredibly positive and rewarding week and the atmosphere in the school was incredible. However, we don’t want reading to be a one-week celebration. Our new librarian, Ms Hull, has created a number of recommended reading lists for all key stages and abilities. There will be a number of ongoing initiatives including ‘Battle of the Books’ and the ‘Reading Challenge’ which students should be encouraged to take part in. All of the year 7s, 8s and 9s will be taking part in library introductory sessions to ensure that they know how to take books out of the library and don’t find the process intimidating.
Reading really is the most worthwhile thing a student can do. It offers them the opportunity to experience different worlds that they never thought were possible. The benefits of reading are endless and extensive research shows it improves grades, heightens emotional intelligence and creative thinking skills, and improves social skills. Psychologists have said that we are the average of the five people we choose to spend the most time with: by reading, these people could be successful scientists, brilliant mathematicians, heroic teenage characters or inspirational sports stars, and imagine the impact that that could have!
If you have any other questions regarding reading in our secondary school, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms Kate Wilson, English Subject Leader