Developing a reading culture during the pandemic for all pupils
year has been challenging for all schools as we continue to navigate the twists
and turns of the pandemic to deliver a quality education for pupils. As Head of
Library at Fearnhill School, my energy has been focused on pupils’ reading
habits and identifying ways to encourage more of our students to read for
pleasure at home and in school. Moments like National Share a Story Month (May)
are the perfect opportunity to remind ourselves of the power of storytelling but
it’s also important to think about how we can encourage all our pupils to
discover the joy of reading year round.
Fearnhill, a third of our students are in receipt of pupil premium funding. Like
all schools we have have been very aware of the impact the school closures have
had on our pupils, especially those from a disadvantaged backgrounds. This is
mirrored by national
research from Renaissance Learning and the
Education Policy Institute which found that all year groups experienced a
learning loss in reading, with pupils in year 8 and year 9, falling behind by
around 1.6 and 2.0 months respectively. Reading is a skill that is crucial to
unlocking access to every aspect of the curriculum for pupils and it is so
important it is prioritised in school and at home.
been working hard across the school, utilising edtech such as Accelerated
Reader and Star Reading to track pupil’s progress levels and create personalised plans for
students to combat any potential learning loss. But as all librarians and
teachers will recognise, our pupils’ wellbeing is of paramount importance in
the pathway back to normality. Encouraging reading has helped our pupils to
build back their stamina and get to the end of every book. It has also enabled
us to develop a reading culture throughout the school which prioritises reading
enjoyment. This has been truly key in supporting pupils settle back into a
normal school life.
The power of reading for pleasure
Books introduce young people to
new concepts and ideas and allow them to immerse themselves in fictional worlds.
Our pupils have developed and challenged their thinking through reading a wide
range of texts, improving their empathy skills and social abilities. Throughout
the school we have made an effort to establish reading as something you can do
to relax, feel calm, laugh, and experience escapism. This will continue to be
an important message we deliver as we head out of lockdown.
The benefits of reading for
wellbeing were also reflected in the recent annual What Kids
Are Reading Report from Renaissance Learning, which looked at
the reading habits of over 1 million pupils during the pandemic and beyond. It
found that many children across the nation decided to pick up a book for
reading enjoyment in the past year and that often these books were more
challenging and longer reads. We now have a role to play in building on this
reading culture and school libraries can support this process.
tips for developing a strong reading culture
great to have moments like National Share a Story Month – we need to embed a
culture of reading for pleasure year round. You may have been doing activities
during NSS month but here’s some ideas that have worked for us to help drive
reading throughout the year.
we have recently started a book club, which our pupils named ‘The Page
Turners’, to encourage more exploration of different genres. We have
seen so many benefits to this already - from
developing our pupil’s empathy to expanding their imagination through to
introducing them to new topics. Reading
doesn’t always have to be a solitary activity and combining reading with a
social book club can help give all students an opportunity to discuss the books
their reading, especially if these conversations are unlikely to occur at home.
World Book Day fell during the third national lockdown and we asked students to
imagine they had woken up in the setting of the last book they read. The idea
was to get students to think about how books can take them places, regardless
of Covid-related restrictions on their movement. But actually this is relevant in non-pandemic
times too. Holidays are often not on the
family agenda if money is tight, life has thrown you a curveball or if you are
new to the UK and establishing roots and do not have family living on the
Regardless of the age or stage of the student,
implementing a regular time for young people to read for pleasure is important.
Some pupils may not have the opportunity or the right environment to read for
pleasure at home, so establishing this habit in school is important. As a
secondary school this is increasingly important because our pupils have to
juggle a range of subjects, but this also offers the chance for them to explore
a range of difference texts, genres and topics that are related to their
giving pupils as much choice as possible is helpful. We will all be aware of
the challenges Covid-19 presented when it came to access to resources, but
students who have a diverse choice of books are more likely to
find something that aligns with their reading interests and abilities. Digital books can offer a solution for
some. For example, a digital library
such as myON,
has over 7,000 digitally enhanced books for pupils to access online. Digital books offer the same benefits as
physical books and can support young people’s language and literacy development.
Roshan Hunt is Head of Library at Fearnhill School, a secondary
school located in Hertfordshire.