Reading around the Campfire at Carron Primary

Kayleigh Docherty, class teacher at Carron Primary School, shares their reading journey so far, including the success of their Reading around the Campfire event!

This year at Carron Primary School in Falkirk, we embarked on a journey to create a reading culture within our school. We decided to implement this as part of our school improvement plan, as inspired by in-service day training delivered by Professor Sue Ellis. This training made us realise that encouraging reading for pleasure had, unfortunately, became lost within a busy curriculum at our school. Linsey Archibald and I then attended a First Minister's Reading Challenge information and networking event in Edinburgh and it was here that we realised the FMRC captured everything that we were aiming to achieve through our school improvement plan. We left the conference full of ideas and enthusiasm to get started on our reading journey!

Getting Started

We began by carrying out an attitudinal survey of all parents within the school. This gave us a huge insight into attitudes towards reading at home, as well as highlighting barriers that could be preventing pupils from reading for pleasure. We also carried out an attitudinal survey of all pupils within the school, which was invaluable to creating a sustainable and proactive plan to create our reading culture.

The survey revealed that the main barrier to pupils engaging with reading was lack of time. We therefore decided to implement ‘Everyone Reads in Class’ to allow pupils time to engage with reading every day.

The second largest barrier to pupils engaging with reading was lack of books that children are interested in. As a result, we contacted Falkirk Council’s Library Resource Service, which has been able to create and deliver a class library to every class within the school. This library has been tailor made to suit the interests of children in each class and has proved very popular.

We also began a house reading challenge across the school. The aim of the challenge was to help motivate pupils across the whole school to engage with reading. Each house was given a reading ‘rocket’ and pupils were provided with a reading rocket bookmark. Pupils then receive a sticker for each book that they read, which is subsequently recorded on a ‘rocket fuel’ chart within each classroom. The ‘rocket fuel’ points are then collated every week to reveal the winning house on an interactive display in the lunch hall. The house at the end of each term with the most ‘rocket fuel’ then enjoys a prize. Just before Christmas our first winning house, Tryst, celebrated their success with a pyjama party movie morning which went down a treat!

Reading around the Campfire with Parents

As we are aware that parents play an enormous part in encouraging their children to read, we planned a family ‘Read around the Campfire’ event that aimed to engage children in reading, whilst holding an information session for parents at the same time. We wanted to encourage as many parents as possible to come in to school so all children had to be accompanied by an adult to the event. Parents were asked to take their child to their class teacher in the playground while they came inside for the session. We delivered a presentation for parents focusing on the importance of reading, our school plan and what they could do at home to help support us in creating our reading culture. As this was going on inside, pupils were wrapped up outside, listening to stories by campfires that had been set up in the playground. After the information session, parents were then able to join in the fun outside.

Positive Impact and Feedback

The event was very well attended, with over 200 pupils and parents there! We are lucky enough to have such a supportive staff base at Carron, without whom this event would not have been possible. The evening also received an incredible amount of positive feedback from both parents and pupils, so much so that they would like us to make it an annual event. Many parents emailed or tweeted the school to tell us how much we had inspired them to engage in reading with their children again; we found that many hadn’t realised just how vital reading for pleasure is to overall academic attainment, and the presentation had really encouraged them to ensure their children became lifelong readers.

One parent commented:

'In the previous couple of years it had been a struggle to get my child to sit down and read, but this year the transformation has been incredible!  At times he just can’t put down a book, and has completed books in 2-3 days and has even fallen asleep reading!'

The pupils also loved the event, commenting:

'I thought the campfire event was quite exciting as we got to hear some snippets from lots of different books. This inspired me to read some of these books after the event.'

'I thought the campfire event was a nice experience as I love reading when I am all cosy and snug so it was a nice atmosphere with everyone together around the fire.'

We are only at the beginning of our reading journey and are already seeing the positive impact that increasing reading engagement is having across the school. Our weekly lunch time reading club is very popular, often with 100 pupils joining in with a variety of reading activities. We have also begun ‘reading buddy’ sessions where paired reading takes place across the whole school. This is something that pupils always look forward to and thrive during. We held our next event, a Harry Potter evening on 1 February, aimed at sharing the magic of Harry Potter with our primary four to seven pupils. Our next challenge is to improve reading areas across the school, as well as continuing to motivate and engage all pupils to enjoy reading! 

How is your school getting on with the Reading Challenge? We would love to hear from you @FMReadChallenge on Twitter or by email readingchallenge@scottishbooktrust.com

Reading around the campfire