Partnering with your local nursing home with Dunfermline High School

Young people engrossed in books on bean bags

When Dunfermline High School started a partnership with their local nursing home, they were faced with the challenge of keeping the connection between residents and pupils going through the pandemic. Fiona Taylor tells us how they sustained their Community Reading Project through pupil-recorded audiobooks.

How did it all begin?

In the 2019-20 session, we began taking a small group of ten senior pupils to our local nursing home for one afternoon a month. Pupils would team up to read a book they had chosen to a small number of the residents. The residents responded really well to this experience and pupils would talk about how much joy they felt after their visits due to being able to take part in something so positive within our local community. Unfortunately, our last visit to the nursing home was in January 2020 and the project was halted due to Covid.

How would we continue after lockdown?

Due to the success of our reading visits to the nursing home, we were able to start a dedicated senior elective called The Community Reading Project. We were lucky enough to have a number of pupils interested in getting involved with this. Their aim is to help build a reading culture both within our school and within our local community. When we returned to the school building in August 2020, we knew we wouldn’t be able to take pupils to visit the nursing home in person. Would that stop us? Of course not! Instead, we decided to have pupils record their own audiobooks which could be played in the nursing home for the residents to listen to.

How do you record an audiobook?

The first thing for us to consider was copyright. Pupils selected novels that they would enjoy recording and then we sent out emails to request permission to do this. We were lucky enough to hear back from Louis Sachar himself who granted us permission to record Holes. We were also fortunate to receive permission to record two of Roald Dahl’s books. Once we had everything in order, we were ready to record! Pupils worked in small groups to read their books. Some would take on the roles of characters while others would act as the narrator. While the occasional school bell makes an appearance in the recordings, for the most part the pupils have worked hard to ensure that each chapter has been read and recorded to the very highest of standards. When a book is finished, all audio files are uploaded to our Teams page and then we create a CD which can then be played in the nursing home.

Where are we now?

Our newest recruits to The Community Reading Project are already hard at work! We’re even lucky enough to have a few pupils who have returned for a second year because they’re so passionate about the work we’re doing. This year, we’ve started with older books that are already out of copyright so we could begin right away while we wait for permission to record more recent publications. At the moment, we have teams working on recordings of The Turn of the ScrewFrankenstein and Jekyll and Hyde. We also have teams working hard to promote reading within the school through displays and helping with exciting events like National Poetry Day, and of course, Book Week Scotland. Our aim is to begin reading some festive themed pieces this term so we can spread some Christmas cheer to the residents of the nursing home which we’ll drop off alongside some homemade Christmas cards.

Why not give it a go?

Being part of this project is incredibly exciting and our pupils are so passionate about being able to do something positive for other people, especially for those who have been forced to shield because they are so vulnerable. They love that, despite Covid, they are still able to share their love of reading. To quote one of last year’s cohort, they love “Working as a team to make the chapters feel more alive and create a connection with people in our community."

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