How One School Dropped Everything and Read!

During Book Week Scotland 2013, Cumnock librarian Andrew Willetts found a way to get everyone to switch off and relax with a book! Below, he describes the successes and challenges of organising a whole school Drop Everything and Read.

The idea of ‘Drop Everything and Read’ was that S1-S3 Pupils would all stop what they were doing throughout the school and read for 15 minutes.

If you are going ahead with an event like this there is no point in doing it half-heartedly! The event took place on the Thursday afternoon of Book Week Scotland and I spent most of the week leading up to this preparing for the event. That may seem like a lot of work for fifteen minutes but if it helps to create or develop a reading culture within your school, then it's time well spent.

The event turned out to be a success, but there were certainly a few bumps along the way and lessons that I will learn for future events.

Before I announced it to the pupils, I knew that I had to get the staff on board. There were more than 20 teachers whom I spoke to individually about the reasons behind the event (Book Week Scotland and the benefits of reading for pleasure) and the organisational plans (basically I was going to ensure that all pupils were prepped and had reading materials and that there would also be back-up reading materials available in all of their classrooms).

I could and maybe should have done this differently. It would have saved time to arrange a meeting but that is not always practical with time pressures of teachers. One thing I certainly would have done differently was make sure that all Depute Heads and Principal Teachers were aware of the event in advance. I had been given the go ahead by the Head Teacher but it nearly didn't happen when a Principal Teacher and a Depute Head Teacher raised a few issues! Thankfully I explained that over 20 teachers wanted to go ahead and I was dealing with all the organisation so it was allowed to go ahead. This was a relief but there was now added pressure to make it a success!

I delivered a presentation to all S1-S3 Pupils early in the week letting them know that the event would be taking place and that they should bring something to read (anything from a book or kindle to a magazine or comic). Each class had the opportunity to visit the library in advance of the event and I arranged for my S6 Library Assistants to deliver feedback forms and books to the various classrooms. I also arranged for the janitor to ring the school bell at the start and finish times and for S6 Pupils to run around 20 classes in 15 minutes taking photos!

The feedback was positive with nearly 70% of pupils saying they enjoyed the event and nearly 50% saying they were now more likely to read. 88% of Staff said the event was a success. This kind of event is a great opportunity for all school staff to show themselves as reading role models, and it's great if they can be encouraged to pick their own books to read, rather than pick one of the pupils' books. It shows the pupils that staff buy into the importance of the event, and next time I would continue to emphasise this.

My advice would be to give it a go and give it your all!

Read more Teachers & Librarians blogs on Creating a Reading Culture

Andrew Willetts

Andrew Willetts is the librarian at Cumnock Academy