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Engaging with Reading: ideas to implement

Are you class disengaged with reading? Do they see it as a chore or punishment? Mr Morgs has some great tips on how to ignite the desire to read within the whole class.

Below I have bullet-pointed different ideas you can implement in class and school-wide to increase engagement with reading. They are in no particular order. They are ideas that can be implemented with little cost or effort (for the most part).

  • When reading in class together, children follow along with a ruler (idea taken from @solomon_teach)

This ensures all children stay on task and that they do not get distracted. If they lose pace, they can check with the person next to them and get back on track quicker.

  • Don’t use reading as a punishment

You are killing any pleasure or joy for reading if children are doing it as a punishment. Find an alternative for them to do.

  • Hold a book club at lunchtimes or before/after school

This can be done with any type of text. I’ve done it previously with a group of boys uninterested in reading with football match reports, annuals and magazines.

  • Put a sticker inside the front cover of the book for children to put their name in

This is great for instilling a sense of ownership for a class text. Children feel more responsible for the book and take greater care of it. Also much easier identifying who it belongs to! Can even go one step further and allow space on the sticker for the child to leave a review (idea taken from @MrCFoyle as pictured below). Imagine the influence that can have on a younger child, if they see one of the children they look up to has read and enjoyed the book!

  • Let them see you read every day (other than in lessons)

This can easily be done at the start or end of the day. If your school sets early morning work as children come in, then sit there reading. I do this every day. Children come in quietly as they can see I’m reading. Once they finish their short task, they pick up a book and start reading also. They do not need to see you reading children’s fiction necessarily – at the moment, my class see me reading Closing the Vocabulary Gap by Alex Quigley. This could also be at the end of the day, where you read to the class as a whole.

  • Take an interest in what they are reading

Ask children questions about their book. Ask them about the author’s style, whether it is part of a series or not, who their favourite character is, what it is about etc. The list of possible questions is endless. Sometimes, if it is a task that children can get on with independently without much teacher input needed, I wander around the room picking up the book they have on their table and simply read a few pages of it. Occasionally, I  read the chapter they have just read and ask them what they think is going to happen next and discuss it with them, throwing in my own ideas.

  • Never discourage their choice in a book

We are all aware that David Walliams does not write the most challenging texts, but neither did Roald Dahl. The fact of the matter is that children enjoy reading them so we should let them read them. Instead, ensure your class texts have a suitable level of challenge. For your top readers, make them aware that David Walliams’ books are fine to read, but that they should also challenge themselves with other more difficult books (for which you can make suggestions!)

  • Class teacher swap

Once a half term or term, send teachers into a different classroom to read. We trialled this for world book week and the whole school loved it. Children have asked for it to happen again. It was great for us as teachers to be able to share our favourite books, especially outside of the key stage we teach in.

  • Reading in assembly

Ensure all teachers do this occasionally for the same reasons as above! Normally, we have 3 teachers that do all assemblies. For world book week, everybody read in assembly except those 3. Again, children loved it. We scanned in the books to show on the projector along with questions to get children guessing.

  • Communicate that giving up on a book is OK

Sometimes books simply aren’t interesting enough to us and we give up after a few chapters. We should allow children to do the same – both individually and as a class. In my NQT year, we read Cosmic as a class. The class hated it. That doesn’t mean it is a bad book; it just wasn’t suitable for that class. I explained that to them and we stopped reading it.

  • Let them have a say in what you read

Do a class world cup of books (idea taken from @MrBoothY6) to help you choose what book to read next. If they liked a book by an author, why not read another book from the same author? You could give children a choice of a few books, wrapped up with only a few words written on them to entice them. Have a class vote and decide what you are going to read next. Idea taken from @SadiePhillips pictured below:

  • Have a variety of texts in your book corner

Plenty of affordable magazine and children’s newspaper subscriptions exist –  FirstNews, Amazing Magazine, Phoenix Magazine. You can buy classics 2nd hand for pennies online!

  • Let children get comfortable when they read

You may have beanbags, sofas and cushions in your book corner, but can that space fit more than 5 children? Let the children slump on the tables, put their feet up, lay their heads in their arms – whatever makes them comfortable. Do we sit upright on uncomfortably hard, plastic chairs when we read at home?

  • Children only read half a page out loud

When reading together as a class, let children only read half a page. This gives the less confident readers the confidence to read out loud but also means the less engaged have to pay attention, as you could ask them to read at any point. Reading half a page also ensures a lot more children are heard reading every day.

  • Dedicate time to reading

Every teacher’s timetable is full. It always is. But dedicating time to reading is of the utmost importance. That doesn’t necessarily mean a specific slot in your timetable (although I would strongly advise having this), but including it in other lessons. In PSHE, why not read a text with a bully in it to get the anti-bullying message across? In History, why not read through a historical source and base the lesson around that? Or a piece of fiction set around the same time and fact check it (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas comes to mind)? If you have a spare 30 minutes after a school trip or assembly or after anything, why not read more of the class text?

  • Don’t always write from something you’ve read

Writing in literacy lessons doesn’t always have to be from a class book. It is important that children read a text for pleasure without having to do any real work around it. Question them yes, but don’t insist on a diary entry here and a newspaper report there. In my experience, I’ve found that reluctant readers are just as reluctant in doing the writing pieces based around the class book. By forcing them to constantly do writing based off a text, we are pushing them further away from enjoying reading. They will always associate reading with work. Instead, use more videos, pictures and experiences for your writing stimuli.

  • Watch and read author interviews about your class book

If your class text is very famous and popular, you’re likely to be able to find some videos about it on YouTube where the author is discussing it. Newsround occasionally have authors on and love4reading regularly have author Q&As in the blog part of their website (as pictured below):

  • Contact authors and illustrators on Twitter

There are plenty of authors and illustrators on Twitter who are happy to respond to teachers. Come up with questions as a class that you want to ask. As you can see below, SF Said (Varjak Paw series) very kindly (and very quickly!) responded to questions I put forward for the Year 3 class at my school.

  • Pre-teach vocabulary before you read together as a class

Define all the vocabulary in the upcoming chapter before you read it as a class. This helps those with weaker vocabulary understanding to be able to access the text too.

  • Invest in a text for every child

I understand this is an ideal situation, but when reading a class text, it works best when every child has their own copy. Speak to your SLT about funding this – we funded it this year through the money made from the book fair. If funds are tight, then you can always buy a copy between two for upper KS2 classes.

  • Build up reading stamina

If you have reluctant readers, start with shorter class texts and slowly build the stamina up. If the book is 300 pages long, it is going to take too long to read and they will lose interest. There are plenty of great children’s books that have short chapters and are sub 200 pages.

  • Test reading speed daily for 1 minute

With the less confident readers, test their reading speed every day for 1 minute using the same text for a week. This can help to improve their reading speed and therefore open up space in their working memory.

  • Watch the TV show/Film adaptation of the book

After we finish a book, we watch the film or TV adaptation of it together. Children are always excited to watch it and it creates great discussion about what was left out and kept in from the book. We recently read Skellig. The class loved the book but thought the film was terrible – this prompted great discussion about how scriptwriters/directors might interpret texts differently to how we do!

  • Sign up to a review website like Goodreads

You could write class reviews about a book and add books to your class wishlist. You can even find similar texts to read!

  • Dressing up for World Book Day (in pyjamas!)

A lot of families simply cannot afford a costume for their child – why not let children come in to school in their pyjamas? This is more inclusive and you can relate it to the fact that reading before bed time is a great activity. You could encourage children to bring in their slippers to wear in the classroom as well as their favourite teddy (so they have an audience to read to!)
I will look to update this blog with other ideas that I hear of!
Contact me on Twitter – @_mrmorgs

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The author

Mr Morgs is an experienced Year 6 teacher from South London. He is a trained SATs marker, LA Moderator and has an MA in leadership. He is interested in keeping up-to-date with current educational research, specifically related to the teaching of maths and reading.

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