How to Prepare for Book Week Scotland

How can schools make the most of Book Week Scotland? Well, I think the first step is to think about Book Week Scotland in a couple of different ways. The first is to look at it as a celebration, a chance for a high-profile event or project that will create a buzz and get every pupil talking about books. It's a temporal platform to put reading in the spotlight, and you can put a lot of time and energy into planning something big.

Everyone loves a fun and creative initiative: it binds people together in a shared experience. So we encourage schools to hold author sessions, watch our Authors Live events, set up a reading flashmob or anything else that creates a buzz (you can find lots of ideas in our Creating a Reading Culture resource).

However, I think the small things often have the most lasting impact. And you can start doing those small things now, even ahead of the Book Week Scotland programme launch on 5 October. Here's a list of broad aims you might want to adopt, with some practical ways to achieve them. Remember that the First Minister's Reading Challenge is encouraging schools to submit details of how they've created a reading culture over the coming year - stand by for the launch on September 1 to hear more details!

Start to build the profile of reading

To create a reading culture, you need to make reading visible. An easy first step is for teachers to put an 'I am currently reading: X' sign on their classroom door - it's a simple way to create discussion, especially if your pupils see that you're reading a wide variety of texts. Also, it's easy to create a reading recommendations wall in your classroom or library: have a look on Pinterest for different ways people have done this.

Even setting aside 10 minutes a day or a week to read aloud as a class is powerful

Start to build in time for reading

I believe that, however much we enjoy reading, it's still a habit. If we're not doing it regularly, we can fall away from it and get consumed by other things. I find teachers and parents affirming this belief too. It's a challenge to make regular reading happen in a busy curriculum, but even if you encourage pupils to keep books on desks at all times then they can take advantage of every opportunity. Even setting aside 10 minutes a day or even a week to read aloud as a class is powerful, because that's still a habit, and they'll notice if you take it away.

The curriculum is packed, and while we await the outcome of the newly published documents on cutting workload, a great strategy is to get parents and the community to reinforce the reading message outside of school. This takes a lot of time and effort, but pays enormous dividends. Check out the rest of our blog posts on creating a reading culture to find some great examples, including the fantastic Dunbar Reads Together project.

Start to enthuse staff

Staff are readers and role models, and you can capitalise on this by getting all staff to share their reading experiences with pupils. But before doing this, I think it's important to get staff enthused. I don't think constant enthusiasm about reading is something you can take for granted, because as I mentioned above, it's easy for reading to get lost amongst other things. Help your colleagues rediscover their passion for reading by organising staff book swaps, lucky book dips, book Secret Santas or staff book groups. Much as it's important to be familiar with the latest and best in children's fiction if you can, at the end of the day it can only help generate staff enthusiasm if you make a bit of space to talk about adult books too (or whatever kind of book you personally like). After that foundation has been laid, it's much easier to speak to pupils about reading with genuine passion and excitement.

If you find the right book to engage your learners, this can do the work of a great many schemes and initiatives

Start to engage parents

I realise that sub heading will raise a few smiles, because firstly it makes it seem like this isn't obvious, and secondly the brevity makes it seem like it's as easy as starting a swear jar or a lottery syndicate. But although engaging parents is challenging and demanding at times, there really are lots of small things that can make a difference. If parents use social media, you can use things like Facebook and Twitter to your advantage. Put out a simple call to action - ask parents for their book recommendations, ask them to share their tips for reluctant readers or their favourite books based on films - whatever you think will be easy to share and helpful to others. Share helpful videos like this one from Hampton Primary School to give parents tips and boost their confidence. The key is to make whatever you post quick and easy to act upon.

Start to work on pupils' perceptions of reading

That's a bit vague, but I needed a pithy heading. And this is potentially a wide area too, so I'll break down what I mean. Excuse anything that looks like over-simplification!

Some pupils have a perception of reading as something lofty, an activity which is solely connected to attainment in school. This can be a turn-off, so it's great to get them involved in projects that make reading fun and meaningful to them. Why not try a shared reading project, where older pupils read picture books to younger pupils? We have lots of resources to get your started. This project can work at primary or secondary - check out this case study from Kincorth Academy to see how it took shape in a secondary school.

Pupils often think of reading as something worlds apart from their own interests, but it's entirely possible to bring technology and reading together. Why not try making a book trailer, a challenging task which pupils tend to take a lot of ownership of? In a culture which is heavily visual, pupils can be engaged by creating comic books, so you could try this resource from comic creators Metaphrog to get them started. We've got a variety of other resources which draw on technology - check out our resources section, where you can filter by category.

There's lots more I could say here, but actually one of the most important things is to remember that if you find the right book to engage your learners, this can do the work of a great many schemes and initiatives. Have a look at this blog post from English teacher Geraldine Moore, who describes the effect that Phil Earle's Heroic had on her challenging class. You can also browse our book lists for some fantastic ideas!

Top image by Alan Peebles.