Kirsty Wilkie, Teacher at Castleton Primary School in Glasgow, discusses how they have approached the First Minister’s Reading Challenge and got their whole school excited about reading for pleasure!
At Castleton, we’ve always loved reading and books, but with the launch of the First Minister’s Reading Challenge we decided to take a new, whole-school approach. To get us off to a great start, for the whole month of November, we decided to make reading our focus. In particular, we wanted to engage the children’s interest and enthusiasm for new and different texts as well as re-introducing well-loved but forgotten ones!
Each week had a planned focus: characterisation, poetry, digital literacy, nursery rhymes, storytelling, illustrators and illustrations, and Book Week Scotland to name but a few. As you may imagine, it was an extremely busy month!
At Castleton, we have 14 classes from P1 to P7, so all themes were well-planned and used effectively to accommodate all the pupils in our school. The children were also given the opportunity to meet visiting specialists and authors, including storyteller Mairi Cochrane, Scottish Children’s Book Award winners Simon Puttock and Philip Caveney, and Scottish actor and storyteller Cameron Jack, who shared how his love of reading led to his acting career. We even had a visit from Zoo-Ed who brought a snake, mouse and cockroaches for a sensory story-telling of The Gruffalo’s Child. It really was exceptional and our P1s loved it!
The whole school enjoyed exploring our rich Scottish literacy culture through engaging with well-loved stories re-written in Scots, for example, The Glasgow Gruffalo and Roald Dahl-inspired Scottish language texts, rhymes and songs.
What’s more, all our P1 and P2 children were presented with their Bookbug and Read, Write, Count bags, which allowed them to read books with their parents and to vote online for their favourite one, giving the children a feeling of ownership over their learning. Nick Sharrat’s Shark in the Park on a Windy Day was the eventual winner and we watched the announcement online with bated breath! Our children are very enthused by the thought that a shark could be in a park here in Glasgow…
We were really keen to involve families in our reading journey, so we had an ‘IREAD’ stall at our Parents Night informing them of forthcoming opportunities, for example, a ‘Family Reading Afternoon’ and a ‘My Teacher’s Favourite Childhood Book’ session. These opportunities built on and strengthened the genuine feeling of enthusiasm for reading that is now firmly embedded in our school and forms a key part of our school’s aim to ‘Be The Best We Can Be.’
Parents were also invited in to learn more about the paired reading scheme Scotland Reads, Playing with Sounds (a phonic programme for P1) and the continuation of our successful Story Sacks initiative for our infant classes that we launched last session. To further build on our successful partnership with families and the wider community we are also providing opportunities for parents to extend their own skills via Glasgow Clyde College with a coffee morning and information session in early March.
Our Home Learning was a bit different in November: we gave our pupils a grid of fun reading tasks to complete at home with the support of parents. One of our P6 pupils, Barry Beattie, displayed his enthusiasm for the new style by making a short video that we shared on our Twitter page. In fact, we try to share all of our great work here at Castleton, whether it be reading or any other area of the curriculum, on Twitter. This enables us to celebrate our success and share with parents and the outside world just how much we love learning and expanding our minds and capabilities.
Working in Partnership With Our Library
We have arranged for all classes to visit Castlemilk Library to make sure everyone is familiar with it and understands how a library works. Each class took part in a very interesting workshop about all the interesting things you can do at the library, how you can find help for home-learning tasks, find out more about a subject you’re interested in and borrow the newest book on the bestsellers list! Prior to this, many of our children didn’t have a library card, so these were issued as well as books to borrow for school or home use.
The children were enthusiastic about their experience and P6D also managed to benefit from a ‘coding’ workshop that allowed them to discover more about Digital Literacy and writing computer programmes.
We have also borrowed topic boxes, dual-language books, Big Books and countless other books from Glasgow Life Library Outreach, along with Nintendo DSI machines from EDICT to help with focus and brain-training. Our P7s will be learning about critical literacy and the ability to quote and use sources appropriately, which will be an invaluable skill for secondary school and beyond.
Film and Digital Literacy
At Castleton we have started to develop skills in Film and Digital Literacy as we look to the future and lifelong learning. In Film Literacy we use films, adverts, documentaries and videos as texts, in the same way we would investigate a book. We consider it before, during and after and see how our attitudes and opinions are informed. Children are learning about camera shots and why colour and sound affect the impact of the film and the audience participation. This is proving to be a very popular aspect of the school day as it grabs pupils’ attention and gets their conversation flowing. In turn, this has a positive impact on their confidence in literacy and attainment becomes more accessible.
We promise, and continue to promise, to read for pleasure every day for 15 minutes! We are also going to continue to get involved in the Daily Mile, which not only acts as exercise for our growing bodies but allows our minds to refocus and concentrate in class.
Having been excited and inspired by so many authors from different backgrounds and cultures, we want to continue to give our pupils opportunities to interact with them.
Only a few weeks ago we watched Authors Live with Chris Riddell, and we are hoping to be part of a live studio audience with Nicola Davies later this month.
Three teachers at Castleton have been coaching in context and supporting staff in Literacy for All, as part of Glasgow’s Improvement Challenge. They have been sharing resources and ways of taking reading for enjoyment forward in Castleton. Our future plans involve the setting up of a Reading Committee, with representatives from each class to talk and discuss how we can continue to take reading forward in our school. This Committee will be responsible for selecting books for our class and school libraries and perhaps introduce iPads and Kindles to take our Castleton Reading Journey even further.