Session 227: How to get Children Reading for Pleasure

Hosted by @UKEdChat

BookReadingPromoOne major challenge for some pupils, it would appear, is getting them to read for pleasure, especially with the many distractions modern society throws at them. Other children love losing themselves in to books, getting lost in their own imaginations as they progress through the stories.

This UKEdChat session explored how teachers encourage children to read for pleasure, looking at strategies that work in all educational settings. The questions explored during the session asked:

  1. The media regularly reports on issues with literacy in the UK. What are your biggest challenges with getting children to read?
  2. The new curriculum places greater focus on reading for pleasure. Do you have a top tip for encouraging reading for pleasure?
  3. Reading for pleasure is all about finding a personal love of books. But when kids are outside the classroom how do you get parents on board with reading at home?
  4. Boys can be enthralled with books – but only if they were ‘up their street’. What types of books do you find interest boys more?
  5. National Literacy Trust reported children were embarrassed by books. Can reading be seen as ‘cool’ by kids?
  6. Creative responses to books such as drama and movement can increase understanding of descriptive vocabulary. What ideas are there for creative activities?

As it was a mammoth session, this post has been split over 4 pages:


Get rid of formal book reviews. Tweet/text a review, postcard, letter, note to a friend; why you should read this…” - Chris Chivers

In one of the most popular #UKEdChat sessions of the year, the community came together to discuss the importance of reading for pleasure, with many showing their enthusiasm and need to get children choosing to engage with more and more texts.

The first question asked about the biggest challenges people face with getting children to read. The main challenges appeared to be: time; their desire to read; quality parental support; decoding skills; a lack of curiosity or attention span; modern day distractions; school work; disaffected boys; not seeing adults read for pleasure; a lack of choice / quality texts; labelling certain types of texts as appropriate; and reading ‘isn’t cool’ to certain groups of children. There was even a comment that too many teachers use reading as a ‘fill-in’ activity, so it’s not a positive experience for pupils - @ChrisChivers2 (slide 50) said to, “Make books being read the subject of broad discussion and recommendation. Don’t make reading an isolationist activity”. @njjkelly agreed (slide 88), ‘Children sometimes then associate it with time wasted before the ‘real learning’ begins…”

The messages came clear that having adults reading, and being seen to read, is important to children, so they have positive role models. This is relevant within and out of the school walls and we all have an important role to play. Quite a few contributors shared that some schools are now displaying posters on classroom doors sharing what their teacher is reading, but the conversation focused on what teachers can do to encourage and support parents to get their children reading at home, for pleasure. @ChrisChivers2 questioned (Slide 260), “Perhaps policy should be books home always for pleasure, not as extra teacher. If latter, parents need good guidance.”

Also staff reading ‘selfies’ showing staff reading in their own time sparks the conversation between students. Indeed, all teachers and schools have to be incredibly enthusiastic about reading – a constant whole school discussion – with assemblies etc. Year6 reading ambassadors - boys promoting reading for pleasure by setting up fun social reading events for others to attend (Slide 163).

Reading Passport from Literacy Trust. Click image to view full PDF

@Ideas_Factory (Slide 83) called for books to be given away and “visit libraries. Show that reading doesn’t have to be limited to ‘books’ and educate parents”. Other suggestions include providing book recommendations to parents in the weekly newsletter, or even possibly sharing what you read and your favourite books to encourage a passion for reading. He even advocated using Reading Passports from the Literacy Trust (click here to view) as a means of motivating pupils to read at home.

Cid and Mo (Slide 107) suggested, “We recommend reading aloud to children with no expectation. No questions, no discussion just…’that was great!’ Books are fun!” Showing a passion for reading is critical for teachers, and to be a good role model and read when the children are individually reading.

Various people shared activities that take place in their schools to encourage reading for pleasure, including reading club, DEAR (Drop Everything And Read), KS1/2 reading partners, extreme reading (eg: on horseback, in a boat, on a mountain etc.), monthly teacher recommendations, reading fortnight, book shares and children listening to books if they struggle with reading can still enjoy story and motivate them to keep trying.

There were various discussions questioning about what we actually mean by ‘reading’, as many youngsters are reading all the time through messaging and online, but the quality of that reading is mainly questioned and quite limiting in helping broadening their vocabulary. However, on the positive side, technology provides support to LA readers as they could easily look up words they don’t know. It was also pointed out that buying e-books usually allows uploading to 6 devices, so potential savings can be gained as well.

@JonReidOBU (Slide 197) shared a You Tube channel featuring audio stories, “My father is recording stories and tales he told to me, as audiobooks”. Using audio books can be very powerful for reluctant or struggling readers, enabling access to a wider range of texts.

Embracing technology to encourage reading was also suggested, as Guided reading sessions can now include iPads-import PDF’s & you can use anything to read! Leaflets, wikis, websites, games – anything to get them reading for fun.

The conversation turned attention to the perceived issue of boys and reading, although did not want to concentrate too much on an exclusion of girls and their reading habits. Embracing technology, particularly Kindle’s, appeared to work for teenagers. But, getting all staff involved in a reading culture is also important, @MrAllsopHistory shared that a “Rugby coach at last school had a book of the month - really engaged the ‘tougher’ boys”. In fact, Zoe Toft argued, “Lots of people will tell you non-fiction is the way in but I think it’s same as for girls: chat to them, find out interests”. Mystery and adventure books get the boy hooked as they love solving the mystery, and the choices in adventure books keep the reader in the driving seat, as they determine the outcome of the story (see iPad Adventure books here or here). Some observed that when it’s DEAR time (Drop Everything And Read) with students, non-fiction seems to enthral the boys more! One perceived difference for the sexes was pointed out by Corinne, “Girls will read any type of book, most boys would not be caught dead reading ‘girls books’”. The reality for some appears to fit some kind of ‘stereotype’ maybe. Sharon Stead confirmed, “My son loves war, magic, stories with boy protagonists…”

Various specific books were suggested for youngsters of all ages, which have all been listed here.

Quite a few people mentioned the acronym ERIC (Everyone Reading In Class), but one of the major challenges appears to be getting students to continue reading once they leave the school grounds! We need to develop a passion for them to do so.

Get pupils to write a book review, in a tweet. Click here to download as PDF.
Get pupils to write a book review, in a tweet. Click here to download as PDF.

Making children ‘review’ what they have read can take the pleasure out of reading for some so adapting practice. Alison Simmons suggested an idea being implemented at her school, “A-Z reading challenge this year with bronze, silver & gold awards. Boys love challenge part of it. Early days but working well.” Extreme reading challenges proves popular, “my kids primary did extreme reading challenge where they had to take pictures of themselves reading anywhere (mountains, the bath)” – Kerri Hastings.

Another question explored how reading can be made ‘cool’ for children, to avoid embarrassment for reading for pleasure. There was agreement that this needs to be challenged, and MissSays argued, “Once you find the ‘spark’ for a child, embarrassment goes out the window.” In fact, ‘Get caught reading’ may be a way to get books to be more cool. Push the age group a bit…’you shouldn’t be reading this’, suggested Bernie.

SEN Therapist advocated, “Books are COOL when subject is cool. If that child likes a subject. Understanding the child = getting the right reading material”.

It is important to remember, as teachers, that children will only read when they find value in it, “some teachers are too concerned in making kids read their interests” (Chris Wise).

Finally, the session explored ideas for creative responses to books - such as drama & movement - helping understanding of descriptive vocabulary. There is a danger that this separates what we mean as reading for pleasure with literacy activities, but such activities can just be fun, If kids associate story to fun experiences, then reading can become memorable. Creative / dramatic / musical responses are often more indicative of students understanding. Far better than a simple retell.


Storify & Archive are on next page…



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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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