Creating a Positive Reading Environment – At School

Teachers are some of the best people to inspire a young person. I have had many inspiring teachers, my favourite subjects have varied from biology, to history, to classical studies, to PE and back again, according to the teacher who most captured my attention and imagination at the time. Children can come to a love of reading, or any other subject, at any time in their lives. However, unlike some other subjects all that is required to maintain this love once acquired is a steady supply of good books. It is therefore advantageous for the child to acquire a love of reading as soon as possible. I say this only from my own perspective that the earlier they begin to love reading the more books they will have time to read, which means they get more time to enjoy children’s books while they are at that magical age those books are written for.

With this in mind it follows that primary teachers (or kindergarten/1st grade teachers for my American friends) are therefore at the front line of this battle. I will not presume to tell teachers how to do their jobs, that would be patronising and completely unnecessary. Indeed most are already doing a superb job in my experience, and are as passionate about books as I am myself. Instead I will share some examples of good practice I have seen in some of the schools I have visited,  I hope this will give some people some ideas as to how to continue their good work.

Author visits: children get really excited about visitors, especially when those visitors are excited to be there. Children’s authors are generally excited to meet the children who read their books and that enthusiasm passes to the children. To make the most of visits from authors schools often ask about resources, plans, any prep work that they can do and optimum group sizes and session lengths. Teachers have looked at my website to see what their children will gain from the time I spend with them. Some authors charge for their time and others (mostly new authors who have other day jobs) will do sessions for travel costs and some book selling time. It is up to the teacher to determine which authors will be the best fit for their children.

Allowing children to have input on the books the school buys: one school I went into had a book taster session where children where able to look at a large number of books and choose the ones they most wanted to read. The books which came up the most frequently on the request list were subsequently purchased for the class rooms. This ensured the shelves of the classroom library were stocked with books the children already has a predisposition towards reading, which seemed like a singularly brilliant idea to me.

Story time and quiet reading: I cannot emphasize enough the value of the time taken by teachers to tell a story or allow slightly older children to read themselves. I have seen classrooms full of children sitting silently, hanging on the teacher’s every word and completely engaged with the subject. There is something a little magical about story time in it’s ability to turn a classroom into a positive and happy place. I have even seen some teachers use story time as a way to calm down a classroom of tired, fractious children who have ceased to have the ability to concentrate on their set tasks and are looking on the verge of making trouble. It worked perfectly and 15 minutes later the class was back to their original task, with less complaining and more productivity.

There are of course many other things teachers are doing in the classroom to promote reading, and I would love to hear from some teachers who have other ideas they wish to share.


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