Paula Nicoll, Principal Teacher at Our Lady’s Primary School in Dundee discusses how they make sure their pupils have the opportunity to read for pleasure and how they found a solution which works for everyone!
We all know how lovely it is to escape inside the wonderful world of a book. However, we are also very aware of the busy curriculum we have to deliver on a daily basis. Sometimes we forget to take a break, to take the opportunity to read for enjoyment and as a result, this has been one of the focus points for us at Our Lady’s Primary.
There are many schools who use ERIC time (Everyone Reading In Class) but we felt that this did not suit us as a school so we thought of ways we could adapt this idea to better suit our children’s needs and their timetables. The initial thought was for each class to set aside a couple of times per week in their timetables, when they would come together to read. However, as things change throughout the school day, and visitors arrive or staff absences occur, we thought that it might be tricky to sustain this idea. So we had another thought. When a member of the senior management team rang a bell, all children would stop what they were doing and read a book. In principle, this was a great idea, however there were a few issues. Some of our children are sound sensitive, which means the ringing of additional bells throughout the day, would place undue pressure on them. They would begin to associate reading for enjoyment with stress and unhappiness. Also, with the time constraints on SMT timetables it may be very difficult to sustain this in the longer term. In addition, what would we do about the children who were in PE or receiving targeted support? Lots of thinking still to be done!
Whilst the first ideas did not work, a few tweaks were all that was needed to come up with the perfect idea that suited our children and staff. Instead of ringing a bell, we would use a tambourine. Children who were in PE or working within a small, targeted group would not participate at that time but the next time the tambourine was shaken, it would be during a different lesson. I would start the sessions off but after a few weeks, once the children were used to the concept, I would hand the tambourine over to them and they would decide when to read. This meant that if I was out of school or in a meeting the children were responsible for their reading times so my absence would make no difference to their sessions. We had come up with the best plan to meet the needs of the children, encourage reading for enjoyment, develop a reading culture and demonstrate that brain breaks in the form of reading can be beneficial for all. Shake a Story was born!
We are very fortunate in that our building is all on one level and is open plan. The children can walk round the school, accessing every class in under one minute. Once the shaking of the tambourine is heard, the children and teacher stop what they are doing and read.
This reading can take many forms: children reading independently, teachers reading to their classes, children reading with a partner, one child reading to their peers or 1:1 teacher and child. Most classes use a combination of these. To distinguish Shake a Story time from class story time, our P2 teacher reads a novel during Shake a Story time and a variety of picture books during class story time. A handy tip!
The children love this time of the day. They look forward to picking up their books at random times, sometimes mid-lesson, and being allowed to lose themselves in a story for 10 minutes. The teachers read too, and most have to set a timer so that they don’t forget to stop reading!
The best ideas evolve from a number of unsuitable ones. If one idea does not suit your setting, don’t give up on it, think again. The right idea is out there somewhere; we found ours in the form of a tambourine!