Reading and Learning


Reading and Learning – Summary #399

Effective reading skills are difficult to teach. Some children take to reading like a duck takes to water, whereas other individuals have little inclination, or get little joy from reading any text. In fact, a recent study of more than 11,000 7-year-old twins found that how well children read determines how much they read, not vice versa – how much they read is influenced equally by genes and the environment. Fundamentally, the study authors concluded, interventions should focus not only on promoting reading skills but also a motivation to read.

For most individuals, developing a love of reading starts from an early age – really early. How much importance reading to young children, and displaying reading habits in the home can help foster a joy for reading. In another study (reported here in The Guardian), the proportion of toddlers being read to every day has dropped by a fifth over the last five years. A spoke person from Egmont, who conducted the research within the UK, said “Our research tells us we need to give children a real range of print alternatives to choose from, whether that’s a magazine, a graphic novel, a comic or a picture book. A sense of agency, and being given the freedom to pick their own reading material, is far more effective in creating lifelong readers than a strict reading list.”

The importance of books and reading for pleasure at home cannot be understated, and the role of the family in fostering a love for books is critical, so much so that interventions by schools can only be limited. Indeed, one teacher reported that engaging KS3 (pupils aged 11-14) pupils in an accelerated reading programme where groups were required to read fiction books, in a hope to boost reading for pleasure resulted in the pupils becoming turned off reading for pleasure. Yet, fostering reading for pleasure comes from leading by example and teachers need to demonstrate their love of reading too – do as I do not do as I say. It is easy for schools to promote a culture of reading, but unless students see evidence of that in practice – for pleasure – then who are they to be inspired from? Click here to read a comprehensive paper about The Impacts of Daily Reading on Academic Achievement by @MrsHollyEnglish.

There are so many great ideas out there to promote reading for pleasure. If you have the luxury, ask a librarian into your classroom to do a book talk on the subject you are about to start. Author visits and competitions work. Teachers talking about what they are reading is great too. Foster reading for pleasure with some DEAR (drop everything and read) time during tutor sessions (and in the evenings at boarding house) can also positively have an impact, but such structures need to become routine, and pleasurable for everyone, not a chore. Silent reading can feel like a chore and some ‘reading schemes’ have ancient books that disengage. Reading aloud exciting books will encourage children to pick up books. As long as you champion reading – any reading at all, hopefully, the interest develops. There is such a massive magical universe to explore when you read!

Other possible factors that could be part of young people disliking reading is measuring reading levels and labelling groups of individuals, making them read things they might not want to. Interest develops at different times for different kids. But it is SO important to be able to read – hard to find the balance. Additionally, give them time to look in the library and stop rushing them to make a choice. Allow children to stop reading something they are not enjoying. Reading is an adventure, not a chore! The type of reading does not matter. Encouraging them to read other things is also ok. Finding the right book for that child is still something that can be worked on but not forced. Developing an interest in reading is the most important aspect. Allow students to choose books about topics that interest them – wizards, sports, makeup, warfare etc. Reading for fun can be about anything. This may develop into independent reading for learning. Once reading becomes a habit and not an effort, then reading for interpretation of questions, case studies, extracts, mathematical understanding all become a lot simpler. Sometimes you do have to read something difficult and uninteresting. There is no way a child will have a big interest in all their subjects at school. So developing reading skills might not make something interesting, but possibly less painful to read!

Teachers should be seen reading and talking about books. Set up a teachers’ reading group in the school library at lunchtime. Classroom doors should show what the teacher is reading. Displays with teachers and their favourite book go down well too.

Positivity about reading spreads. Reading for pleasure and sharing what you have read with your class shares enthusiasm, and normalises the process of reading for pleasure, along with mini book reviews and book recommendations. If only one child decides to pick one up, we’re winning.

You could run a radio station reading competition hosted by pupils. This has encouraged reading for all pupils in each year group. Certificates and badges were handed out and some won free a free book. The show was broadcasted live during Friday lunchtimes. Creating a dialogue with children is essential…students will be most eager to read books a teacher will recommend or show excitement about. Modelling passion about and respect books is essential. Showing enjoyment when reading, planning reading time into your day & talking about how much you’re looking forward to it, model choice – if you’re really not enjoying a book, stop and find another one.

Digital readers allow students to access thousands of books on devices, with some now giving audio too. Also, those who struggle with reading can use sites like https://rewordify.com/ . This will rewrite pasted text by replacing difficult words with easier text.

Concluding, schools can only do so much. Great modelling from teachers and school staff can go some way in helping develop a love of reading, but families also need to get involved – the earlier the better. Any attempt or encouragement from schools to help families support their child foster a love for reading as early as possible. Even if the opportunity has been missed with older children, there is always the chance to catch families to support younger siblings who may not yet have started with the school. Invite families in – mum, dads, siblings, grandparents etc – for a shared reading session. Utilise the outdoors; utilise evenings and weekend; utilise different media; utilise libraries and library staff; utilise the power and influence schools and teachers enjoy to help foster a love for reading across the generations.

Favourite Books:

  • Will forever love The Tiger Who Came For Tea. Letters from the Lighthouse by @emmac2603 Once by Morris Gleitzman, Revolting Rhymes by Dahl and Harry Potter. Some from my own childhood and some I’ve come to recently with my own class
  • my favourite book was The Folk of the Faraway tree. I always wanted to go down the slippery slip on a cushion from Moonfaced.
  • My favourite books were the Chronicles of Narnia, Just William books and Swallows and Amazons sets. Reading some of these gave me an in-road to learning about life in different times.
  • oh my gosh, if you haven’t read ‘Room on the Broom’ drop everything and get a copy! Anyone else or just me?
  • “the witch tapped her broomstick and…
  • my favourites change all the time! Light Jar and Tin are currently favourites. But Indian in the cupboard, Cosmic, Edward Tulane and Varjak Paw are up there too!
  • The Eye of the North by @SJOHart, Once and Then by Morris Gleitzman, Skellig will always be a favourite…there’s too many I love them all!!
  • The Lion,the Witch and the Wardrobe because my fav teacher read it to our class when I was 8 or 9. Tilly’s Time Machine by Ade Edmondson. Malala’s Magic Pencil. The Journey. Lots of beautiful picture books suitable for all ages inc adults.
  • Read Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe in a day when I was bed bound due to an illness at 7 years old. Fell in love with the ideas and story.
  • There May Be A Castle, Land of Neverendings & Nevermoor recent faves along with Knights of Borrowed Dark series
  • Elephant in the Classroom Jo Boaler, What’s the Point of School? Guy Claxton, Bounce Matthew Syed, High Challenge, Low Threat Mary Myatt…

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About @ICTmagic 719 Articles
Martin Burrett is the editor of our popular UKEdMagazine, along with curating resources in the ICTMagic section, and free resources for teachers on UKEd.Directory

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