Reading is right at the heart of everything we do in Dunfermline High School. In school, our pupils read for ten minutes at the start of every English lesson, every day. Our wonderful pupil ambassadors lead regular reading activities, inspiring and encouraging the discussion of books all around our school. Many of our colleagues in other subjects now have classroom libraries. There are books in offices, book swap shops at parents’ evenings and events where staff, pupils and parents can read and talk about books together.
Reading has now become an expectation – a fundamental part of every day. It’s as much an expectation pupils have of us as one we have of them.
Keep reading high on the agenda
The closure of our school meant that some activities had to be put on hold but reading remains one of our central priorities. Before the closure, uncertain about how long they would be away from school, pupils talked to us about the books they had at home and many borrowed books from our class libraries. We borrowed books from each other’s classrooms; determined to use this time to read more and recommend more brilliant books. There was no question that we would try to find ways to continue to promote reading during lockdown.
This is what we’ve done so far:
- We talk about books every day. Reading for (at least) ten minutes every day remains our expectation. Home learning tasks are designed to spark conversation about books. What have you been reading? Tell us about a character/incident/surprise. Our live lessons with pupils begin with a discussion about books. These are some of the most rewarding tasks; our pupils’ engagement is excellent and it’s a brilliant way to collate reading recommendations.
- Access to books is crucial. We advertise – on Twitter and with our classes – opportunities for free access to ebooks, audiobooks, and videos of people reading books aloud.
- We share book lists for young adults and for teachers, parents and carers. Sharing book lists from The First Minister’s Reading Challenge resources, Scottish Book Trust and World Book Day is also a great way to promote books with families during this time.
- We share digital ‘what I’m reading/what I’m watching’ posters from staff. Our staff book group has been set up online and our pupil group – The Pageturners – continue to meet as a class to share what they’ve been reading.
- Monthly reading challenges. Every month we have a reading challenge, shared on Twitter and with classes. These challenges are designed to inspire creative responses to reading.
Our monthly reading challenges
Our April challenge encouraged pupils to promote a book they’d ‘wander’ into the pages of if they could. Where would they go? Which characters would they befriend or confront? What might they be tempted to change?
In May, there were three tasks: write a letter to a character, choose a line from page 52 of their current book and use it as the first line of their own piece of writing, or illustrate a new front cover of a favourite book.
Our June challenge will focus on creating a book or making something inspired by a book.
By sharing a range of activities, we hope to encourage as many of our pupils as possible to take part. We’re really pleased to have had entries from staff and parents and carers too.
We’re looking forward to the day when we can all discuss what we’ve been reading back in our classrooms, where we’ve worked so hard to create environments that support and encourage reading. But for now, our school community is about more than just our building. These lockdown activities have given us the opportunity to stay connected through our shared love of reading, while also promoting the benefits reading has on academic opportunities and on our wellbeing.