Pamela Webster, Principal Teacher at Bankier Primary School in Falkirk tells us all about how they have used the First Minister's Reading Challenge to get pupils - including reluctant readers - excited about reading!
Talking about Reading
Just before we started the First Minister’s Reading Challenge we had a whole school ‘Big Gab’. This is where pupils meet with others from across the school and discuss a given topic. The topic they were given was to bring in their favourite book and discuss it with others. Many pupils did not bring in books and when questioned said they did not like reading. It was also observed during a validation visit that many pupils were not given enough opportunities to read for enjoyment. Taking this into consideration I decided that the First Minister’s Reading Challenge would be an opportunity to promote and encourage reading for pleasure and to embed a reading culture within the school.
Launching the Challenge
I contacted David Goutcher, the Scottish Spy Quest author, who I had become familiar with through local events. His newest novel features Augmented Reality, which allows the reader to use an app to turn the book into moving images. I thought this would capture the interest of many of our pupils and that involving an author in our Reading Challenge launch would be great. He came in to school and talked to the pupils about his life as a secret agent and his love of books and introduced them to Augmented Reality. Many pupils purchased books and I promoted this through my Twitter page. I wanted to ensure that everything was being shared with families and the wider community. We also purchased a class set of novels for the school.
Keeping Up Momentum
I established a reading display board in the corridor where everyone could see and add to the display of our reading journey. I introduced a weekly whole school reading for enjoyment time, when pupils and staff would spend time reading. Along with this I set a weekly reading challenge for everyone to participate in. I delivered this by hand every Friday and the excitement began to build. Pupils began to stop me in the corridor saying they loved this week’s challenge and to ask what next week’s challenge was going to be. I created #BankierBookBanter, which was a way to encourage pupils to ask each other questions at break and lunchtime about what they were reading. Teachers included this in class time as a Talking and Listening activity to promote different genres of book.
A Series of Challenges
- Our first challenge was to send in a photo ‘reading in a strange place’. Pupils were encouraged to include pets and family with their reading. A large number of pupils participated in this challenge and we shared their photos on the school Twitter page. Staff also took this challenge to a new height when one teacher was caught reading on top of the Forth Rail Bridge! Other staff photos included reading by pumpkin candle light, reading with a famous cook book author and one member of staff shared photos of themselves reading during their weekend job as a secret agent. Pupils loved seeing their teachers as reading role models. The staff also organised a real life ‘Where’s Wally’ when three teachers dressed up and the pupils had to find them hiding in the school.
- The second challenge was to write and record a book review; the prize was a special Spy Quest interactive game for the school. Several pupils participated in this and shared their videos on Twitter.
- ‘Drop Everything And Read’ was our third challenge. Every time the bell rang, pupils and staff had to stop what they were doing and read. This was a particularly popular challenge. Pupils who previously admitted to not enjoying reading were now talking about when the bell would ring again as they wanted to finish the chapter.
- Our fourth challenge was to create your own character for a book you would like to read and add a description. Many pupils chose to do this at home and some teachers allowed pupils to create these during ICT. This activity helped the pupils to think about and identify what kind of books they would most like to read.
- Our fifth challenge was Christmas themed. The pupils were tasked with designing their own class advent calendar with a different book recommendation behind every door - P7's impressive creation is pictured on the right!
I intend to involve the pupils in creating new reading challenges every week and have a ‘Drop Everything And Read’ week during each term.
Involving Families and the Community
We want to ensure that everything we are doing to encourage a reading culture is shared with families and our wider community. Twitter has been a great medium to do this and has allowed me to keep everyone up to date with the challenges and to celebrate reading achievements. During Book Week Scotland we organised a book sale and a reading lunch with families; our guest author David Goutcher attended and we participated in an international ‘Skypeathon’. We also invited parents in and had a very successful open afternoon themed around reading where we gifted our Bookbug and Read, Write, Count bags.
The First Minister’s Reading Challenge really has had a positive impact on pupils’ attitudes to reading for pleasure at Bankier Primary, especially those who would never have previously picked up a book!
If you would like to get inspired by another school's reading journey so far, why not find out about Reading is so Caol at Caol Primary School.