Underbank Reads Together

At Underbank Primary, we wanted to involve the school and local community in an inspiring reading project to develop a lifelong love of reading and skills for learning, life and work. This aim resulted in our ambitious Underbank Reads Together project!

Before the project started, we aimed to build staff skill and confidence in using reading strategies to impact positively on our pupils’ literacy skills, as outlined in our improvement plan. We engaged in various professional learning activities including Literacy Circles, looking closely at possible reading strategies which could be used before, during and after reading a text and higher order thinking skills.

Our Underbank Reads Together project was launched by a family reading challenge around our village

We also shared our approach to reading with parents. We did this through an information session followed up by workshops in which our pupils demonstrated the reading strategies in a very practical way. Parental evaluations were overwhelmingly positive, and we now believed that school and home can work better in partnership to improve attainment in reading. The stage was set for our project to get underway.

Our Underbank Reads Together project was launched by a family reading challenge around our village. Families were encouraged to look for the answers to the questions set by reading information on signposts, information boards, maps, the war memorial and other information points. Families recorded their answers on their entry form, then handed these in to school. Many of our families engaged with this activity and said that they had fun tackling this reading homework task together.

Our project also encouraged all pupils to enter into a reading contract with a parent/relative or family friend, an idea which was  supported 100% by our parents. All pupils and their reading partners engaged in the project, reading together around three times per week. Pupils and staff wore lanyards displaying the title of the book they were reading, which generated lots of discussion with their peers and people around our school and

A young pupil from Underbank with her lanyard
community. Staff and pupils often highlighted books they were enjoying, both informally and more formally at such times as school assembly.

All classes engaged in ERIC time (Everyone Reads in Class) for a few sessions per week. Teachers also participated in this activity to model that reading for pleasure was enjoyed and valued by teachers too.

We deepened engagement with four partners within our community. The dental practice, two local garden centres and the local playgroup welcomed our Underbank Reads Together book boxes. These boxes were aimed at pre-school and primary-aged children and were clearly labelled with our project title. The books were selected from our school resources and each book was also clearly labelled with our project title. Our partners reported that these were well used over the months, so promoting a love of books. These remain in place with the books being changed every 2-3 months. We promoted our boxes to young readers by visiting the playgroup with small groups of pupils to read to those attending the playgroup sessions.

Boy at Underbank reading on an Ipad
Staff have also had training on accessing e-books. These have been used to inspire readers during our Friday afternoon masterclass sessions and during lunch reading clubs. During masterclass sessions all pupils from P1 – P7 select a group activity that they wish to attend in order to learn a new skill. E-book masterclass was very popular and after pupils selected a book they then had time to read and talk about their text. Parents were informed of their child's choice and how the chosen book could be accessed from a device at home. Senior pupils had a key role in organising the lunch time groups, again allowing pupils to select e-books and access these at school and at home. All e-books purchased continue to be available within our e-book library for others to access too.

We aim to repeat elements of our project next session to continue to maintain a focus on inspiring a love of books while also impacting positively on attainment of reading within school. Our recent HMIe report recognised the impact of our project: "Almost all children are interested in reading as a result of the school's reading initiatives. The use of ERIC time is benefiting everyone and in particular those few learners who don't have a tradition of reading outside of school."

A girl at Underbank Primary reading a book
Our family reading challenge proved to be a very engaging style of homework task which we have used as a model to create other family collaborative tasks. The strong commitment of our parents continues to impact positively on our learners and the partnerships made during this project will continue to be nurtured. This project has been hugely successful and enjoyable for all at Underbank.

Loved this project? Check out our blog about Edinburgh's Reading Riot project, or have a look at all of our blogs about creating a reading culture in school.

Margo Millar

Margo Millar is the head teacher at Underbank Primary School.