Improving reading in secondary schools #1

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So this is my model of Reading for Pleasure and what you need, especially in a school to make it a success.

All the facets are just as important as the framework and without any of these you cannot successfully say that you or your school achieves reading for pleasure.

Over the next couple of blog posts I’ll look at the individual nature of each of the components, thinking about their implications in a school and the question you should be asking yourself to see if you manage to provide enough for your students. Initially though I’d like to lay the foundations for that and explain the meaning behind my understanding of what reading for pleasure is and more importantly what it entails.

Reading for pleasure is obviously a big focus at the moment in schools with Ofsted highlighting in reports such as Moving English Forward the need for students to be engaged in reading, for schools to create policies around reading for pleasure and for reading to play an important role across all areas of the school.

Of course Ofsted being Ofsted, their view of reading for pleasure is very different from reality. Ofsted state students should be reading books at the appropriate level. Now, this isn’t, contrary to popular belief, anything like reading for pleasure. This is steadfastly believing that for young people to be a success at reading they need to be challenged. Now challenge is extremely important if young people are to improve in their reading but only focussing on this is done at the detriment of the student and potentially any progress that might be made.

Too often I’ve been watching young people choose a book during an English lesson, form time etc with the understanding being that they need to pick a book they are going too read. Too often have I seen a student pick a book that they want to read, know they will enjoy, only for the teacher, sometimes English teacher, sometimes other member of staff to ridicule their selection as being too easy then drag them over to pick a more ‘worthy’ classic that will improve their reading, comprehension and understanding of language.

That might be true, if the student was ever to read that book. So instead of enthusing them into wanting to read it they have instead only succeeded in proving to the student that reading is a forced activity, has nothing to do with pleasure and their own decisions as well as just having made them feel a bit rubbish. I’m very glad to say this doesn’t happen in my current school, with staff realising there is so much more to engage readers than just trying to challenge everyone at every point.

Just because a student may be capable of reading there is almost a hierarchy of reading ala Maslow that needs to be reached before you can start looking at pushing a reader. This hierarchy I will talk about more in other blog posts but for the purpose of this model I think it’s important to see it as more about the whole working together rather than just the individual parts.

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