In this re-blog, Jon Biddle lists 23 ideas to get your school away from creating a culture of children reading for pleasure.
This tongue-in-cheek list is accompanied by the following caveat from his blog – By the way, the school I work in has a genuinely wonderful reading culture!
- If a child tells you that they spent an hour reading a wonderful book at home but their mum didn’t remember to sign their reading record, spend at least thirty seconds looking disapprovingly at them. Remember, it’s all about evidence.
- Ensure at all times that children are reading a book which is the right level for them. They should not be reading books which are too simple or too challenging. Colour-coding and organising by difficulty are effective ways to show a child how good they are at reading.
- If, by some bizarre twist of fate, an author, poet or storyteller ever visits the school, at least half of the pupils need to be either out on a trip to the local supermarket or attending a phonics catch-up group.
- When ‘reading for pleasure’, children must always make some kind of record of it in their reading journals. Tell them that’s what proper readers do.
- Do not engage with your Schools Library Service, the local library or any kind of children’s bookshop. Have as few people with a passion for reading visit the school as possible.
- Incomplete sets of books in the library and classroom are crucial. Having the Alex Rider series on a shelf with books 1, 3 and 8 missing is great. Point out that the books were only bought ten years ago and that they really should have been looked after better.
- Do not model reading in class. Ever. During quiet reading time, make sure you are inputting data to your school’s pupil tracking system or tidying up a Geography display.
- On World Book Day, be careful to make the emphasis on the costumes the children wear rather than books. Encourage them to spend money on an expensive outfit they will probably only wear once instead of on books they might read several times.
- Have posters around the school showing children the books that various members of staff are reading. Make sure that they display the same book all year and are never updated.
- Make it as difficult as possible for children to visit the school library by not staffing it for most of the day. Children should be changing their books once a week, and not more or less frequently. If they have finished a book before their library visit is due, then they must read it again. It must never be accessible before school or after school.
- Keep old, tatty and out-of-date books (e.g. Will Humans Ever Visit The Moon?) and try to spend the least amount possible on new books.
- If you are reading a class novel, make sure it is the same one you have read for the past five years, especially if you worked in Year Six for that time and are now teaching in Year Two.
- Ignore poetry completely. Explain to the children that it very rarely comes up in SATs tests these days.
- When reading a shared book, do not give out more than one copy for every four children (this includes tatty photocopies). The less time they spend in physical contact with a book, the better.
- However big your classroom is, it isn’t big enough for cushions, book corners, author displays, etc.
- Occasionally tell the children that you really like reading but never, ever be more specific. Do not mention actual books, authors, illustrators, etc.
- Continually reinforce the message that magazines, comics, newspapers and football programmes are not books and therefore not really proper reading.
- If you are teaching in Year Six, remember that the only independent reading the children can do after Christmas is past SATs papers.
- Provide parents with a handy list of differentiated questions they can ask their children when reading at home. Most of them should contain the word ‘infer’.
- Try to make sure that the library has as many other purposes as possible. Parent groups, one to one tuition (which obviously needs to be done in silence). storage of the iPad trollies, music lessons, etc. Be creative!
- Do not allow the pupils to have any ownership of reading in the school. No pupil librarians, no input into choosing books and no helping with displays.
- Never hold special assemblies about just books. One on World Book Day is more than sufficient.
- Five minutes spent at the start of a staff meeting sharing a couple of books that the children have enjoyed (or that you have enjoyed) is five minutes wasted!
This article was originally published in 2015, and updated in 2019 by UKEd Editorial staff in line with website updates.