Encouraging Reading For Pleasure: World Book Day 2022
As a teacher, I am aware that learning to read and most importantly learning to love reading can have a huge impact on children and their journey into adult readers.
A great book has the power to transport children to another world entirely.
Through reading, children are exposed to a variety of rich language which in turn broadens their own vocabulary.
Pupils can see themselves in texts and also develop an understanding of different people and cultures.
The more children read, the more they will know, as reading is proven to increase general knowledge and in turn self-confidence and understanding.
Reading introduces children to a variety of different text types and genres requiring them to comprehend various layouts and styles.
Keen readers are generally able to understand and apply correct grammar and their writing seems to flow as they draw upon ideas from their favourite authors.
It is fantastic when you have a class of children who really enjoy reading and can’t wait to tell you all about their latest book but this is not always the case.
How do we support those children who do not enjoy reading, those that find it boring or hard?
Some pupils will read in class because they have to, although they would not pick up a book outside of school and perhaps can’t find something to read that interests them or holds their attention.
In this blog I will explore and discuss different strategies to show how we can promote a real love of reading in our settings.
What is Reading for Pleasure?
The National Literacy Trust defines reading for pleasure as ‘reading that we do of our own free will, anticipating the satisfaction that we will get from the act of reading.’
The Trust also refers to reading that having begun at someone else’s request we continue because we are interested in it.
Reading a wide range of books for pleasure can provide pupils with skills that last a lifetime.
Children can extend their imagination, they learn to empathise with different characters, form opinions and develop their own sense of humour through reading.
Choosing the right book!
When looking at International Evidence children in England report less frequent reading for pleasure outside of school than children in many other countries. (Twist, 2007)
A key aspect of encouraging children to read outside of school is finding a particular text that children like to read and starting from there.
This could take the form of a children’s newspaper/magazine, graphic novel, poetry, recipe card or a book of their own choosing.
If a child really enjoys a particular text, the more they will read and the better they will become at doing so. I believe that there is a type of book for everyone, it is just a case of finding it!
Children may be more motivated to read if they are given the opportunity to choose a text that appeals to their own interests.
It is important to consider the length of a book as sometimes children may feel daunted by a longer chapter book and shorter books can be re-read.
Making use of a local or school library is ideal as there is a wide and varied selection of books to choose from. If a pupil is not enjoying a particular book that they select, there is no pressure to like it or to complete it.
In my classroom I would have a box of ‘special books,’ including books from my own childhood, unique hardback editions or books with flaps, pages with special effects or hidden details.
Children begin to appreciate that books should be treasured and can hold special memories.
I would sometimes collect a set of books with a specific theme such as mystery/spooky and inform the class: ‘I’m not sure you should read these books; I think they could be too scary!’ Immediately this sparked interest and made a collection of books very desirable!
Vivid and exciting illustrations can often spark children’s interest in a text. In my opinion, quality picture books can be enjoyed regardless of age.
The use of illustrations alongside the text can often deepen a reader’s understanding, sometimes providing a ‘sub-plot’ which encourages children to imagine and discuss.
A number of studies have shown that boys enjoy reading less than girls. Creating a ‘Boys Only’ reading club may help to address this issue, where books can focus on specific interests such as ‘Sports’ which can include biographies and fact files.
A reading club can be really beneficial as a space to talk to a group of boys together, to discuss and find out the types of fiction books they would be really interested in.
Quite often, when children are younger their motivation for reading may come from moving up to the next book band or being awarded a sticker.
As children progress in their reading journey, it is important that they understand ‘why’ they are reading.
We want our pupils to pick up their own reading material and enjoy it. Exposure to different text types such as adventure, mystery, historical and fact-finding helps pupils to find their preferences.
We want pupils in our classes to become discerning readers and to be able to make informed choices regarding their reading materials.
I believe it is important for children to view reading as an integral part to learning about the world around them and crucial to all subjects.
When reading time is valued and used in cross- curricular ways to support lessons it can be very powerful.
Some of my most memorable lessons, where children showed the most enthusiasm and engagement, involved reading around subjects to deepen knowledge.
When reading the novel ‘Street Child’ we immersed ourselves in Victorian Britain, reading biographies of famous scientists helped us to understand the importance of their discoveries and analysing animal poems together helped us to learn more about certain species and their habitats.
Reading to Children
Once children gain reading fluency and can master texts independently, adults can tend to think that they no longer need to sit and listen to children read or may not do so as often.
I believe continuing to listen to a child read and reading to them has so many benefits even when they are competent readers.
Children really enjoy reading to different family members such as brother/sister, aunts/uncles and grandparents as they can share different experiences and viewpoints when reading together.
Even though children can read independently, they may not necessarily understand everything that they read.
Adults play a crucial role in helping children to comprehend by questioning, making links to their own knowledge and experience, explaining vocabulary and helping children to summarise.
Adults can read longer books to children that are pitched slightly above a child’s own reading level.
This helps pupils to develop their understanding and broadens vocabulary. Pentagon’s range of Storytelling Chairs and Seating options can create a wonderful place where children will really look forward to gathering together to listen to the next chapter.
A designated reading area emphasises that reading is an important part of school life and beyond.
Listening to a teacher read aloud is something that children enjoy throughout primary school.
Reading aloud allows a class teacher to model reading strategies and to offer background knowledge or explanation.
It is a fantastic way to introduce deeper thinking about a particular text, pupils can be questioned and meaningful discussion can take place.
Children need plenty of opportunities to talk together about the books they are reading.
Through sharing ideas, they will be able to talk about the meaning of the text.
Talking about rich texts allows children to engage, share, make personal connections and ask questions which can be extremely beneficial for those children that find reading difficult.
Sessions can take place with the whole class, in small groups or one to one and can be guided to help with specific skills whether that is inference and deduction, exploring themes or discussing unknown vocabulary.
Everyone can be a Reader
Reading for pleasure can be strongly influenced by children’s own teachers and families. If children can see people they are used to reading, enjoying and valuing books they may be inspired to do the same.
In some schools there are notice boards where both staff and children share opinions of their current reads to recommend to others.
Family members can be invited in to the classroom to mark special occasions where books can be shared and often older children enjoy reading stories to younger children in school.
Having a range of comfortable reading areas around school where children can gather together is really important.
Pentagon’s Playhouses, Dens, Cabins and WigWams can all be transformed into cosy reading nooks where books are readily accessible to learners. The outdoor environment may limit distractions and help to create a special place that children really look forward to using.
A reading area should be an appealing and inviting space that welcomes readers.
Books could be grouped into themes and placed in baskets ready for children to make their choices. An author focus table could highlight various books by the same author and review cards could be useful for peers to explore.
Opportunities for quality reading need to be a timetabled part of school life and given high importance.
How often are children allowed to experiment with character voices and practise creating suspense and excitement? I could often tell that ending a chapter of our class novel on a cliff hanger was the highlight of the day for some pupils.
There really is nothing better than taking time to read together as a class, this includes teachers too! If pupils can see adults valuing and enjoying quiet reading time, they may be more inclined to join in and will not view reading as a task that needs to be completed!
Some children will find reading difficult and for those pupils reading may not be an activity that appeals to them and certainly not something to do in their own time.
Reading little and often and offering praise is a great place to start. Audio books can be a fantastic ‘hook’ for enticing a reluctant reader.
Through listening, children may be exposed to different texts that they would not usually pick up to read themselves.
They benefit from exposure to a wide range of vocabulary and their imagination is ignited.
Often audio books inspire children to listen to a full series of books or they may begin to read the novels alongside the recording once they are familiar with the story and characters.
For some pupils it may be difficult for them to sit at a desk to read.
Allowing them to read in a different, comfortable space outside of the classroom where they choose their seating position can make all the difference.
Sometimes it can be beneficial to team a ‘reluctant reader’ with a reading buddy, where they can share fun or interesting information from their reads with each other.
As practitioners, we all want our pupils to travel further into a world of books as they begin to understand the rich experiences available to them.
Research tells us that children who read for pleasure show a high level of comprehension, knowledge of grammar and improvement in writing skills.
Children need to be taught the skills to read well but they also need to be given time to read on a daily basis.
Reading needs to become core to learning where books are placed at the heart of the curriculum.
Developing a love of reading is one of the most effective ways that schools can raise attainment. Every child deserves the chance to become a life-long reader.