One of my best moments this year occurred on the very day my Y6 class left. In the hubble and bubble after their leavers assembly, one parent came up to me to say, ‘Thank you for instilling a love of reading in my child’. To be honest this was one of the best compliments I’ve had as a teacher. Recently Dean Boddington wrote a fantastic blog about this, after reading his words of wisdom I wasn’t going to bother writing my blog. But I’ve decided to write from a Y6 teacher’s perspective. I totally agree with Dean that a love of reading should be nurtured much earlier on in school than Y6. However what happens when you inherit a class who haven’t got a love of reading?
When I met my next class during transition this July, I asked each one which was their favourite book read this year. Most answers were Varjak Paw by SF Said, which they had read during whole class reading and it was a huge hit. I was initially pleased as I know this is a great book, but as other children answered I realised there wasn’t a wide range of titles being given. Other answers were typically books like Dork Diaries, Wimpy Kid and David Walliams. I know I will have work cut out to widen their reading choice in September, so this is what I plan to do.
Being a reader-teacher
First I’m planning on reading loads myself this summer. It’s essential to be a reader teacher to know what fantastic books are out there. My staff often come to me to ask recommendations about books but I feel I’m only on the start of my journey being a reader teacher, as I’ve got a long list of books I still want to read. Twitter has been essential for me to spark my interest and introduce new books, especially helped by taking part in Primary Book Club.
With my Y6 last year, class books have been the first hook in getting children to love books. I’ve had comments during parents evenings how their children have enjoyed these books. This past year we have read Eye of the North by Sinead O’Hart, Room 13 by Robert Swindells, Clockwork by Philip Pullman and Infinite lives of Maisie Day by Christopher Edge. Next year I already know I want to use the book Once by Morris Gleitzman, after being spell-bound myself reading it this summer. And I also can’t forget the power of picture books. We have also read The Arrival, Day the Crayons Quit, Shackleton’s Journey and The Promise.
I also run a Book Club, which is organised by our local town library. This involves me picking books which the local county have in plentiful supply AND which the children will enjoy. Each month a different book arrives and I promote this in class; children can choose to read this book if they wish. After 4 weeks we have an informal meeting and discuss the book as a group. The Book Club this year consisted of ‘regulars’ – children who participated each month, as well as children who are just interested in that month’s book.
Independent Reading Time
I have a special reading time each day, just 15 minutes or so, to allow individual children to choose a book of their choice to read. To be totally honest it is hard work finding books for certain children at the start of the year. I find some children pick a book, read a bit, then next time we read they choose a totally different book. I want them to persevere with their choice and this means choosing the right book to begin with. I often get other children to help choose books with them, which is really powerful. Sometimes I intervene with my own choice of book. I found the Ottoline series by Chris Riddell a life-saver for the reluctant readers in my class. In fact one girl read all of these and then went onto choosing books independently, which is amazing when she said she HATED reading at the start of Y6.
I celebrate books a lot in my class, they are on display and I generate constant book talk. Children even sometimes answer the register with book related chat, like name of current book or last line read. On residential in June children were keen to show me which book they has bought with them to read at night and on their very last day in Y6 we HAD to finish the last chapter of Maisie Day before they left.
What annoys me is that schools are judged on reading SATs scores and the love of reading can not be measured. Maybe with the new Ofsted framework this will be acknowledged more. I feel a love of reading is far more important in the long run. Michael Rosen sums this up perfectly: