Reading forms more than just a fundamental aspect of a child’s education; it serves as a gateway to a future filled with endless opportunities for learning and achieving success in life.
In primary schools, creating a reading-centric culture and developing strong literacy skills are critical. Teachers and school leaders play a pivotal role in teaching and leading reading to ensure every child not only has the opportunity to become a proficient reader but also to unlock their full potential as confident, creative, knowledgeable, empathetic and imaginative individuals.
That’s why it’s paramount that we embrace not just a shared responsibility but a collective commitment to championing the leading of reading in our classrooms and communities.
In this article, we will explore seven effective strategies and best practices aimed at empowering teachers and school leaders in their mission to lead reading effectively in primary schools. You can explore these ideas in-depth and many more in my book, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Reading for Pleasure, which is published by Bloomsbury and available to buy now.
1. Establish a Reading Culture:
To inspire a love for reading, schools must cultivate a culture that cherishes and celebrates it. This culture embraces and encompasses elements such as reading lessons, diverse book selections, engaging author visits, interactive reading assemblies, book clubs and much more. Whether you’re starting out or sustaining your current culture, consider how you can infuse reading into everything you do so that it becomes an integral part of your school’s ethos and identity.
2. Designate and Distribute Reading Leadership:
Appointing the role of a Reading Lead is a solid start and it’s a practice I recommend for every leadership team, but it’s also essential to share the responsibility of leading reading across the school. Form what I call a ‘Senior Readership Team’, which includes the Reading Lead, headteacher (or Head Reader, as I like to refer to them!), other leaders, teaching and support staff, and even children and parents. This guarantees a collective decision-making effort about reading on a school-wide level and prevents it from falling solely on one individual’s shoulders.
3. Build a Comprehensive Reading Curriculum:
Work together with your school community to design and develop a well-rounded reading curriculum that integrates reading for pleasure, phonics, vocabulary, comprehension and fluency. Consider the incorporation of various reading approaches like guided reading, whole class reading and independent reading for a holistic reading experience across year groups.
4. Allocate Resources Appropriately:
Allocate sufficient resources, including books, digital tools and other reading materials, and ensure that classroom collections and school libraries remain well-stocked and up-to-date. A strategic means to accomplish this is by instituting a designated ‘book budget’ expressly earmarked for enhancing the reading experience. This investment underscores the recognition of reading in your school. Additionally, regularly assess the needs and preferences of children and teachers to tailor the available resources and source new ones that cater to their requirements to maintain an environment that fosters a deep love for reading.
5. Professional Development for Teachers:
Teachers are the key facilitators in nurturing a culture of reading within the school. Providing continuous professional development opportunities is essential for keeping them updated with the latest research and effective teaching methods related to reading. You could also dedicate a segment of regular staff meetings to discuss reading-related topics, share success stories and explore challenges.
6. Collaboration and Community Involvement:
Parents are vital partners and leaders should look to actively engage them in their children’s reading journeys through regular communication, workshops and family events, as well as extending this into the community. Sharing information about its benefits and providing resources, such as recommended reading lists (www.thereaderteacher.com/year-groups), can also help guide them in the reading process and build a strong home-school partnership. While we’re on the topic of community, think about how you can also partner with people and organisations such as local libraries and independent bookshops to optimise opportunities.
7. Promote Reading Personally and Professionally at Policy Level:
Lastly, leaders should not only ensure reading’s prominence in school policies (such as improvement plans and mission statements) but they should also ‘lead/read’ by example themselves and embody the behaviour they want to encourage in their children and staff. Demonstrating genuine enthusiasm for reading by openly discussing books, sharing recommendations and active participation sets an incredibly positive, inspiring and infectious precedent for all. Ultimately, if we want children to be readers, we need to be readers ourselves.
In conclusion, leading reading in primary schools requires a multifaceted approach and takes time, dedication, perseverance and effort. By effectively employing these strategies and spreading a love for reading from an early age, teachers and leaders can equip children with vital skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.