Getting a Whole School Talking about Reading

Ugly Five Display

Marion Cochrane, Deputy Head Teacher at Knightsridge Primary School in West Lothian tells us about their whole-school approach to the Reading Challenge.

Getting started with the Reading Challenge

When we signed up to take part in the First Minister’s Reading Challenge last year, we decided to focus on building a reading culture. This caused us to look closely at the genres of books we were offering children to read. We knew that reading for pleasure was critically important and we wanted to ensure that each child not only conquered the basic mechanics of reading but was exposed to a wide variety of texts, both fiction and non-fiction. We also looked at digital literacy and considered the wider definition of text such as blogs, newspaper articles, recipes, ebooks etc. We spent a lot of time researching and finding out from our children which authors they enjoyed reading and tried to build what we found into our planning. 

Whole-School Involvement

We got every class involved in the challenge by celebrating success in reading assemblies, overhauling the class libraries and using reading lanyards. The lanyards encourage the children to talk about the books they are reading – we’ve even got the janitors and dinner ladies involved to really include the whole school community. 

In the infant department, we focused on the books of Julia Donaldson, with each of the five classes reading and decorating their door inspired by a particular book. The classes then looked in more detail at The Ugly Five, with each class selecting an animal from the story to research and write about. The animals were displayed in the communal infant area, which was turned into a jungle, and were used to re-tell the story. 

In the middle area we all focused on individual authors and created door displays.  In the upper area, we ran a book reading competition in each class and recorded how many books we read as a class in the library. We have also appointed Junior Librarians who are responsible for recommending books. Each week a golden ticket is hidden in a book in the library, and the child who finds it is challenged to read it and answer some questions on it. P7 also visited BBC Authors Live, and this had a huge impact on the children and their enthusiasm for reading. 

Keeping up Momentum for Year 2

We have been continuing to promote our Reading Challenge this year by uplevelling all of our libraries and working at each stage to encourage reading for pleasure.

We have held the Big Bedtime Read, which was attended by lots of parents and children who enjoyed getting new books home with them each week. We used this as an opportunity to speak to parents and share information about the importance of reading as a daily part of children's bedtime routine.

In the middle area, we are working with our Author in Residence, Christina Banach, who is creating a book with each child in. We are holding a Book Celebration Festival where our young authors will be reading their books.

In P6 and P7, we are working collectively to create a digital book. We will then put this story online and share it with others. We have a talking photo album which we are using to re-tell the story and share with the infants.

We are continuing with our reading lanyards, which have proved to be a great way to initiate discussion about books. We have a reading tree in the corridor and we update this with children who have achieved their reading lanyard and are using the FMRC passport. We are using the passports in P1 to P3 too, and have designed a key to show different books. We have created two after school clubs called Read and Rhyme and Authors and Illustrators. Both of these clubs are attended by aspiring authors!

We are still very much on a journey and it is all hard work, but if we can inspire even one child and turn them into a lifelong reader, we will be delighted!

To find out about another school that has put pupil voice at the centre of their reading journey, check out this blog from Craigour Park Primary School with their fantastic reading radio!

How are your school approaching the Reading Challenge? Let us know by Tweeting @FMReadChallenge or emailing us at - we would love to hear from you!

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