Reading can be a challenge for some young people, and you might be finding it hard to keep pupils motivated to read, especially over the holidays or outside of term time. Here are our ten top tips for supporting your pupils to keep reading whilst away from school.
1. Time to read
One of the most important things you can do to keep pupils reading is to set aside time to read and ensure the reading habits you established in school continue at home, whether that is during holidays or generally outside of school time. Just 5-10 minutes a day makes a huge difference and will help sustain a reading habit. Once the habit is established in class and pupils are confident and comfortable setting aside dedicated reading time, discuss with pupils when they might like to read for 5-10mins a day. Is it at breakfast? Or before bed? When would work best for them? Encourage them to start reading at home as well as school, so this habit is embedded before term ends.
2. Access to books
If you have a school library or classroom libraries, make sure that pupils know how to borrow books and that you have a variety of genres, formats and titles to entice a variety of readers.
Find out what is available for pupils through your local library service. Whether that's audiobooks through BorrowBox, or ebooks through an e-lending service, get to know what is available in your area so you can direct pupils and families to books they can share together. Visit your local library before the end of term so pupils are familiar with it and how to borrow books, and help them register for a library card.
3. All reading is good reading!
For pupils with limited access books at home, it is hard to know what to recommend reading. It's important to remember too that books are not the only reading material that pupils might enjoy or have access to. All reading is good reading! Reiterate this in class, and set challenges for pupils to experiment with different types of reading and different formats. This could be a recipe, the side of a cereal packet or food container, or instructions or leaflets.
Remember to allow different formats in reading time, for example, some pupils might prefer to read magazines or articles on their phones or electronic devices. And reading an online football review or news article or online fan fiction is still reading, and it's important not to discourage pupils or assume the only “good” reading is reading a book. All reading really is good reading! By supporting pupils in class to read in their preferred format or type, you are supporting them to also read at home, and realise that they can read what they enjoy, without judgement or feeling they aren't reading properly or enough.
4. Have conversations about reading
Talk to pupils about books and reading, what they like or dislike about reading, and share your own experience. Talk about the challenges you might be facing with reading, such as struggling to concentrate, not finding the right book, struggling to finish a book, and ask if your pupils are feeling the same. You could talk about research on reading during lockdown and over the last few years, and how reading habits change, such as Scottish Book Trust's Reading over Lockdown report. Talk about how their reading habits might have changed over the last year, or might change over the summer, or between home and school
5. Set a flexible goal
For some pupils, setting a reading goal can be helpful. It gives them something to work towards, and a target to think about over the holidays. This doesn't need to be a set number of books, but could be a goal such as read a new genre or try a new author.
Before setting any goals as a class, speak to students about whether they like setting goals. Is it helpful? Does it motivate them? Or do they find it daunting and scary? Remember that any goals should be flexible, and pupils should be able to opt out too if they find setting a goal stressful or anxiety inducing.
It's also important to remind pupils about setting achievable goals for them. Work with pupils to help them understand their own personal reading aims, so if you do set reading goals over a break or holiday, pupils can achieve them and receive the confidence boost from working towards and achieving their goal. You could use the Scottish Book Trust Bookzilla app to help pupils track their reading, set a personal challenge or browse different genres.
6. Get inspired by authors
Encourage pupils to be inspired by authors and interact with them over a holiday, even if they don't have access to their books. Our Authors Live eventsare a great place to start, with over 80 events to watch online for free with some of the UK's best-loved authors.
Many of the events are also available to stream on BBC iPlayerand are great for families to enjoy together. You can encourage pupils to find out more about one of these authors, researching what they are currently working on or what their latest book is and share this when they return to school. Looking at authors and authors work is a great way for pupils to start thinking about texts and selecting texts, and working out what sort of books they do and don't like without reading lots and lots of books. This approach is especially useful for pupils who don't see themselves as readers and aren't sure how to select a book.
7. Create a reading space
A great way to be enthused about reading is to create a cosy reading space or reading corner. This does not need to take much – just a few cushions or blanket or try rearranging the furniture to create a dedicated space for reading. Encourage families to work together to create their own reading space, and then settle down to read a book together.
8. Have some fun!
Sometimes, all pupils need to remain positive is a silly and fun activity around books. These are great tasks to set over the holidays, to get families thinking and talking about reading and books. This could be reading in the most unexpected place (also known as extreme reading) and asking pupils and families to share photos, or create a book throwing videoinvolving different members of the school or local community. These are great activities for starting conversations about books. Creating some excitement and enjoyment around books helps pupils remain positive about reading.
9. Avoid adding pressure
However you decide to support pupils to read at home or over a break, remember to focus the discussion away from reading for attainment or learning outcomes. Pupils may be turned off if you focus too much on the reading benefits for classwork.
Reading has so many benefits, including mental wellbeing, increased imagination, escapism, experiencing a different view point and building empathy. Ask pupils why reading is important to them and reiterate these points before and after the holidays.
Reading should be an enjoyable and entertaining experience, akin to watching a film or another leisure activity. Positivity is key to motivating pupils to read outside of class time.