A Community Approach to Reading in Thornton

Everyone involved with a school can relate to that feeling of excitement at the beginning of each school year, the thought of what is to come…of what can be achieved…of what will surprise and impress you along the way.  

What I would like to share with you in this blog is what we have done to develop children’s reading habits and attainment levels in reading and literacy through community partnerships for the First Minister's Reading Challenge.

Working with parents and families

Shared starts are a common theme in the landscape of Thornton’s community relationships. Our shared starts with a focus on reading was a real success, whereby parents were invited to share their favourite stories and books with children. This was a highly motivating session for children and parents alike, giving children an insight into what their parents were interested in when they were children themselves. 

Then we have Reading for All, a school-based initiative, started this year to engage parents and children in reading together. It is not only about reading skills, but the wellbeing and confidence of children taking part in workshops with a family member present to support them. We made book bags that contained a popular children’s book and fun literacy games to play at home as a way to learn new words and sounds. It was important that we had a measure of the impact this initiative had on children’s attainment. So we took reading a step further and measured the number of keywords children had learned week on week – the results were very impressive.

Moving on to the Scottish Book Trust book bags. This year we looked into examples of good practice in getting the most out of book bags. We held a book gifting morning, with parents there to take part and learn about the books and exciting activities provided. Again, this was a truly successful morning. 

Strengthening partnerships in our local community

A real success story from this year has been the partnership that we have strengthened with Fife Cultural Trust Libraries. Pupils from Primary 4 and 7 were taking part in the Chatterbooks service provided by the library and we were fortunate to win a visit from Ross Mackenzie, author of The Nowhere Emporium. Primary 7 have also taken part in the P7 Book Awards through our librarian, Cheryl Hamilton. This project is aimed at engaging reluctant readers by using eBooks, audiobooks or paper books. Cheryl has been delighted by the response from pupils and their enthusiasm, including more reluctant readers.

Some Primary 7 pupils have also been taking part in a widening access programme with the University of St Andrews called First Chances Foundation. So far they have completed a module focussing on reading and writing skills. Reading eBooks engaged some of our pupils that didn’t enjoy reading as much as other recreational activities and they found themselves captivated by Wendy and The Lost Boys in Neverland. 

Community reading culminated in a celebration assembly, with special guests including Jenny Gilruth, MSP, and representatives from each of our community partners: Pamela Forbes, University of St Andrews; Sharron Brown, Fife Cultural Trust Libraries; parents, families and pupils from our community groups.

Where Will Reading Take Us Next?

We have been working with Heather Earnshaw from Improving Gender Balance Scotland along with other primaries in our cluster on gender balance, and made links to a gender reading library to challenge gender stereotypes on careers and media images. We aim to include a range of new books in our libraries that consider this issue, such as The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams, Ballerino Nate, A Fire Engine for Ruthie and Princesses Can Be Pirates Too!

We have thoroughly enjoyed our focus on reading and community partnerships and we’re excited to learn where reading will take us next!

Has your school worked with parents and your local community around reading for pleasure this year? Make sure you tell us all about it in the School-Community Partnership Reading Journey Challenge! You have until 2 May to submit your entry and you can find out more in A Busy Teacher's Guide to Entering the Reading Challenge.

Ross Mackenzie author visit