Quick Things for Schools to Do During Book Week Scotland
Book Week Scotland is on the horizon, and like a literary minded Q to your James Bond, Scottish Book Trust are here to provide you with all kinds of useful things to help you succeed in your mission to get pupils excited about reading. With a resource pack, special Authors Live event, an upcoming free ebook and a chance to #ThankBooks, there's plenty in your toolbox to get started.
In my time at Scottish Book Trust though, I've found that there's a slight misconception which needs to be addressed about the task of getting pupils reading for pleasure. A lot of teachers and librarians see it as a necessarily large-scale, labour-intensive challenge and tend to associate it with high-profile events and projects requiring a lot of organisation and help from others. There's certainly a lot of merit in this type of undertaking, because it generates a buzz round the school that even non-readers are affected by, and you just need to look at the success of projects like librarian Louise Edwards' cross-curricular zombie project to see what can be achieved in terms of reading for pleasure.
But reading for pleasure is an ingrained need, something we carry with us daily, rather than an activity we only take part in when it's being celebrated on a large scale. Little changes are more often than not the things that make the biggest difference. At the risk of framing reading for pleasure in a mundane way, I'd say that reading is a habit, and it's the little changes that help to create that habit. Let's look at a few small, tried-and-tested things that can make a big difference. Try them during Book Week Scotland and let us know how you get on!
Conduct a reading survey
Sounds time consuming? Let the National Literacy Trust help you - they've got survey templates all ready to go on their website. Here are the templates for lower primary and upper primary/secondary. This is a great way to let your pupils know that their opinions matter and can help to shape your library, whether you're looking to order in new stock or simply change the way you display books to entice readers. It helps pupils too - many of them won't have given much thought to what they would look for in a book and whether there might be books out there for them. Make them more aware of their own inclinations and they'll feel more able to make choices when they come to the library.
As Paul McCartney once told us, we all get by with a little help from our friends, and in this case we'd be wise to heed his advice (he also said live and let die, so it's best to be selective about internalising his work). Writing recommendation bookmarks is a great way for pupils to find out what's doing it for their peers, if they don't want advice from our crusty generation. You can do it in different ways - the bookmarks can be put inside library books, or stored on the wall if you're worried about them getting lost.
Help them re-tell stories to others
If there's one thing little ones love to do, it's share a story (actually, as a secondary teacher, I still found that asking some S1 pupils what they got up to at the weekend drew forth some excitable and epic, if meandering, storytelling).
If you want to get wee ones talking to each other and their parents about books they've enjoyed, they might need a bit of support remembering exactly what happened. That's when tools like story mapping and story stepping come into play. Check out page six of our Reading Activities resource for more information about these useful strategies.
Book seeks reader
The closest you'll come to running a dating agency, probably. Find some 'unloved' books (i.e., books that haven't been checked out in a while) from your library, then display them with a Book Seeks Reader message. For example, this book is looking for a reader who loves adventure, this book is looking for a reader who loves gripping murder mysteries, etc. Credit for this one goes to the enterprising librarian at Inveralmond Community High School in Livingston!
Can your pupils compose a review of a book 140 characters or less? It's a bigger challenge than you'd think - it really forces the reviewer to cut to the core of a book and be creative. And it's great for book browsers too - who really has time to pore through lengthy reviews when they're trying to choose something to read? Find out how a librarian went about it here.
Share your reading life with your pupils
When it comes to encouraging your pupils to read, sharing's caring. Tell them what you're reading, but go beyond that: share the full gamut of your experience as a reader. Share the things you love, the wide range of texts you read, your guilty pleasures (disclaimer: I don't believe there is such a thing) and the books you re-read. Share your challenges and frustrations: the times you haven't finished a book, the times you've hated a book, and the times something has challenged you beyond the limits of your literacy or your sensibilities (I recently read Iain Banks' classic The Wasp Factory and just found it too much, frankly). Your pupils need reading role models and you can inspire and encourage them with your own experiences. Check out our free Teachers as Readers ebook to hear teachers' perspectives and strategies for sharing their reading lives with pupils.
And, as the kids now seem to be saying, BOOM - there you go. There are loads more strategies great and small in our Creading a Reading Culture resources, and of course you can check out all of our other blogs on creating a reading culture too. Good luck!
Image credit: Alan Peebles