As we welcome new ECTs to the profession this September, we want to focus on encouraging and nurturing teachers as readers.
As a primary school teacher do you ever find yourself asking any of these questions?
“Do I REALLY need to read children’s books?”
“I know how to teach reading! I tell children how important reading is! What difference does it make if I read children’s books or not?!”
“What’s wrong with going back to Roald Dahl and books I remember from my youth?!”
Well, nothing is clear cut is it?! Choosing to read a Roald Dahl as your class reader for a half term isn’t a problem on its own. But, if all you can recommend, all you read aloud, is Roald Dahl are you really offering pupils the options for reading they deserve? Children’s literature is growing in diversity, reflecting our diverse society and looking at characters and stories through a contemporary lens. It shares themes that are current and that our pupils care about. It’s our duty to open the doors to these options for ALL pupils.
Many pupils will come from homes where they don’t go to the public library or a bookshop. They may only see new books (apart from at school) on the shelves of the supermarket. Have you looked at what’s on offer in the supermarket recently? Though some can have good titles on offer, many have a very limited selection, often a celebrity heavy offering.
So, why should reading take priority in my professional development? And yes we should see reading children’s literature as professional development!! We know as primary school educators that we have a lot of subjects to teach and try to be up to date and our best in them all. But research shouts to us that getting pupils reading of their own accord is a powerful weapon for success!!
‘Reading for Pleasure is the single most important indicator of a child’s future success.’
What does independent reading look like?
Now, what we are looking for is pupils to know themselves as a reader and to be independent in selecting books to read that fit for them. Pupil agency is so important in children believing they are a reader and for their enjoyment. This is something to be nurtured and your role as educator is vital in this.
How reading experience affects a pupil’s reading independence
If we ask pupils what they want to read, they can only draw their answer from what they know, what they’ve been shown, what they’ve experienced before.
Look at this as an example. Ice cream. Imagine someone asks: “what flavour would you like?”. Well, if the only flavours you’ve ever experienced are strawberry, vanilla and chocolate , you’re likely to say you’d like one of those flavours. But if you’ve been taken to an amazing ice cream parlour with all kinds of flavours, you may say you’d like something a bit different like salted caramel with peanut butter chunks, or rocky road with extra marshmallows! (Now I’m getting a hankering for an ice cream!). You may think “well I really enjoyed the fruit sorbet I tried last time, so I’ll try another fruit sorbet this time”. You get the idea.
As the facilitator of this super power of reading for pleasure, the more ‘flavours’ you have up your sleeve to offer, to tempt, to inspire then the more you can nurture that individual and personal drive to read.
Why teachers should read new books each half term
Now, we aren’t saying read every new children’s book. It’s not possible!!! (Believe me, I’ve tried). But, in a very busy and stressful job, here are some reasons you should be making time to read a few each term:
- Being able to make genuine recommendations for your pupils. You know your pupils really well, pair this with good book knowledge and you can really accelerate that love of reading.
- Ensuring pupils see themselves reflected in books and ensuring pupils see a true reflection of contemporary society.
- Finding inspiration for book-based learning. You can find stories to spark discussion, lesson starters, writing ideas and more besides. You’ll also sit brilliant vocabulary to share, too!
- Finding real grammar examples to share. It’s funny how your brain tunes in to your current focus. So, if you’re teaching relative clauses you’ll keep spotting them in your reading. Collect some great examples to share in your grammar teaching.
- Stress relief and relaxation. Teaching is a full on, busy role and a bit of time in another world via the pages of a book can help your well-being at the same time as developing you as an educator – win/win!!!!
Top tips to maximise pupil’s book knowledge
So, we know teaching is a constant plate spinning battle and working your way through a never-ending list of jobs. So, here’s a few hacks to maximize your children’s book knowledge:
- Staffroom shares – there’s power in the community. As any member of the school team reads a book, have a way to share with other teachers/TAs such as:
- a few mins at the beginning of staff meeting;
- a staff padlet;
- a book scrapbook in the staffroom.
- Peer recommendations – check out what other teachers are reading and recommending on social media. You can always ask “anyone recommend a book for…..” the more specific the request, the better the replies you’ll get. If you just ask for great books for Y4, this is a little too vague!
- Set yourself a challenge – some of us respond to setting ourselves targets and goals. Joining in with something like the Teachers’ Reading Challenge can be a good motivator.
- Use excellent sites curated by amazing reading teachers like: The Reader Teacher
- Join the Reading Rockers community and sign up to our Teacher Book Subscription. We choose amazing books perfect for your key stage, that are brand new releases.