At the start of session 2017/18 we signed up to take part in the First Minister’s Reading Challenge for our Primary 1 – 7 pupils.
Increasing attainment in reading was identified as a priority for the school after data indicated many of our children currently have a reading age below their chronological age. All pupils recently completed a reading engagement questionnaire which highlighted that around half of our children think reading is a boring way to spend time and said that when they grow up they will spend none or very little time reading. From pupil feedback and data it was critical that we improve attitudes towards reading because if children enjoy and engage with reading then this will raise their reading attainment.
The Newtongrange Neighbourhood Profile, July 2016 stated that in the period from 2011 – 2016 the number of books issued had decreased by 19% and the number of physical visits to the library in Newtongrange had also decreased. This prompted us to choose a community focus for the Reading Challenge as we believe this will help to reach out and connect with our children, parents and members of the community to promote and inspire a passion for reading for all.
Planning our Project
This year we introduced Decision Making Groups to our school and one group identified as having the potential to bring a positive influence was the Reading Reps. The idea of the Newtongrange Book Fairies was introduced to the Reading Reps: a variety of books would be hidden around the community for people to discover and enjoy. Their initial feedback was very positive, so the project was given the go ahead!
We have been working very closely this year with Midlothian Library Services and after sharing our idea with them, they were keen to get involved and offered to supply the books required for the project. It was decided that we would aim for around 100 books ranging in suitability from young children to adults in order to involve as many people in the community as possible.
Once the books had been provided it was then onto the branding of the project. We invited a parent, who is a graphic designer, along to our next Reading Reps meeting to help us with the visuals. The Reading Reps decided there should be a special bookmark inside each of the books to share information and record the finding of the books along with posters to advertise the project. We held a competition amongst the Reading Reps to design a Newtongrange Book Fairy to feature as the main logo on the bookmark, which was won by p7 pupil Murray. However, the designs by the other Reading Reps were also so good we decided to include them on the poster. We were very lucky to work alongside such a talented parent who was able to create these for us.
Now that the resources were prepared, it was time to share the secret with children, staff, parents and the community. We launched the Newtongrange Book Fairies at our World Book Day assembly and it was met with a very positive reception. We also launched the project on our school Twitter page.
Our Book Fairies Project Begins
The following Monday brought the next job for the Reading Reps and this was a particularly exciting one…taking on the role of the Newtongrange Book Fairies themselves! We spent the afternoon travelling around the community hiding the books and were thrilled at the reception we received from local businesses, which were delighted to hide books for us. As well as inside various shops, cafes and businesses, we also hid books outside in the park, community landmarks and school grounds.
We invited the local paper (Midlothian Advertiser) to join us as we hid the books and were delighted to have them accompany us to take photos as we undertook our journey, with an article featuring in the paper the following week. Two of our Reading Reps and Mrs Mitchell were then interviewed by Alan from our local radio station, Black Diamond, and featured on the radio show the following evening. Finally, we continued to share regular updates and clues on our school Twitter feed to get the word out there.
We then all waited with anticipation to see what the response would be. Within hours we had our first news that a book had been found, with a picture of the delighted finder (even if the book was a little too young for her). Over the next few weeks more and more people, both children and adults, shared where they found their books - you can see some of their tweets below! Local businesses have commented on the excitement they've witnessed as people located a book, and there has been a real buzz around the school.
We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone involved in helping the Newtongrange Book Fairies project come to life and we look forward to seeing how the project continues to grow over the coming months and evaluating the impact it has on the reading culture both within the school and local community.