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Alison Tarrant CEO School Library Association
August 8, 2023
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Promoting reading for pleasure

A few insights from the School Library Association on developing reading for pleasure in school.

There is a significant base of research that shows the impact that reading for pleasure can have, many sources reporting that the benefits of reading for pleasure as being ‘reciprocal and exponential’. It’s also been deemed by the OECD as being ‘more important for children’s educational success than their parents’ socio-economic status.’ And there’s plenty more – available here:

So, we know it’s worth doing, but how can you promote reading for pleasure?

It’s not something that can be ‘taught’ – as Frank Cottrell Boyce says – it needs to be shared. Teresa Cremin talks about giving children the ‘will and the skill’ – they need to be ‘taught’ how to read but also be given the passion for it. This may come from the teacher – they are certainly an important role model, but it also needs to come from children themselves; it is a community where reading is an important,shared pleasurable activity.

But how can that be created in every school?

Any community is created of individuals, and it’s important to start with them. A child’s attitude to reading is an indicator of how successfully a reading culture is being created, and also provides a fantastic starting point for creating one.

As a school librarian, I created an ‘Attitude to Reading’ survey, which allowed me to gain some insight into the students in school. It highlights things such as preferred genres, what they are currently reading, and gives insight into the familial reading culture.

This provided me with essential insight into the class or year group and allowed me to select groups for ‘interventions’ – those who weren’t reading frequently, or those who weren’t reading a wide range of materials would be given specific challenges or support to help them. As a class teacher these may be done by you, or your school librarian, and the data should be shared – both of you will need to be aware and contribute to develop a reading culture.

When I used to do them, it involved me doing it in paper format and then manually scoring the papers – it was a significant investment of time, but they were so helpful it was worth doing. This is part of the reason I am so delighted to be working with BounceTogether on an exciting new concept called ‘Wellbeing through Reading’. BounceTogether does all the scoring for you – allowing you to see the answers by individual, class or year group. The survey can be done in class – emphasising the fact that it’s not a test, but about their opinions so there are no wrong answers.

To enable every school to develop this vital reading culture every subscription to ‘Wellbeing through Reading’ will include a membership to the School Library Association, so you can talk to an expert about what the results show, and what activities/resources/lessons may help improve the reading culture for these pupils.

This was part of the induction activity for the library and allowed me to get to know each of my users really well. It provided a starting point for conversations with pupils and their parents; I used to select the number who showed the most negative attitudes and speak to their parents individually; to start to bridge the gap which sometimes existed, and also to gain some insight into their child. It is also useful to see if the resources that you are providing access to (whether through a school or class library) are right for this cohort – different changes in interest can impact how well books appeal to a cohort.

Most importantly though, the results of the survey enable you to have a starting conversation with students; identify what their personal barriers to reading for pleasure are and enable them to see that you are ‘on their side’.

Having the data collected across a school can be really useful in identifying any outliers – either children who feel less negatively about reading, or entire classes that are less engaged – so that some support can be put in place.


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