Six strategies to encourage reading for pleasure

A few tips to ensure that a rich, robust, rigorous and rewarding reading culture becomes a reality in your school

A few tips to ensure that a rich, robust, rigorous and rewarding reading culture becomes a reality in your school

7 Mar 2024, 13:00

We know that reading is fundamental to the development of children. Countless studies highlight the links between strong reading skills from an early age and future success regardless of background and there is a strong correlation between reading for pleasure and mental well-being. Reading also improves our empathy and can help to reduce loneliness. And let’s not forget that reading unlocks the rest of the curriculum. Excellence, happiness and success: sold, right?

Yet so often in schools we are focused on the technical aspects of reading, on reading instruction, at the detriment of reading for pleasure. When it is proven that academically, socially and emotionally, reading for pleasure rocks. As Teresa Cremin of OURfP would say: the will influences the skill.

To ensure reading for pleasure is a strategic priority in your school, here are a few tips to ensure that a rich, robust, rigorous and rewarding reading culture becomes a reality rather than a statement on your SDP.

Every day is World Book Day

A reading culture won’t be built in a day, it’s about shining a light on books all year round. Yes, it’s important to embrace this annual celebration but love books, shout about books, and celebrate authors and illustrators week in week out. You will see your school sparkle with book love.

Recruit reading role models

Teachers sharing enthusiasm for reading is proven to enhance children’s engagement with books. But you need a core group of reading champions, including SLT, teachers, support staff, student reading ambassadors, junior librarians who work together to make reading come alive in your setting. From writing book reviews to sharing the books they’ve loved and pressing those books into the hands of others: It works.

Support children’s desire to read

The will influences the skill and vice versa. Every child is different and isn’t inspired or influenced by the same things. We must support children in finding the right book for them. Delivering tailored book recommendations for each child while still enabling choice. Self-selection is critical. Choice is everything. Choice empowers students and valuing student choices values the student. Choice leads to real and meaningful conversations. Choice helps establish and deepen relationships. Choice leads to independence.

Broaden your range

Build a diverse, inclusive and contemporary catalogue of literature. Is your book selection all-embracing enough to cultivate your whole community as readers? Using texts as mirrors is a powerful practice that can harness children’s identities, enhance engagement, develop literacy skills, and engage the whole community. It is proven that teachers tend to draw on a narrow range of well-known authors with common characteristics, shaped by longer publishing careers, a high volume of titles, childhood affiliation with popular characters and marketing.

We need to provide access to a wide range of books to help students discover authors they will enjoy and that inspire them to read more. It’s important that children see themselves in books, for all children to feel connected, to feel inspired by people like them, see names like theirs on the book covers. Fiction, non-fiction, inspirational information titles, poetry, graphic novels. A rich range of reading including magazines and comics. Magazines have been shown to engage and influence the wider reading choices of students and motivate them to read on in new forms.

Make reading social

We need to give our young readers the chance to share their interests, preferences and recommendations with their peers. Social spaces are critical to enable students to talk about books. Read aloud. Read in silence. Read together. Gone should be the day of being told to shush in a library. Provide multiple forums for children to chat about books, to share their reading experiences. The informal and social act of reading works. Engages. Impacts.

Love your library

Invest in your library. Invest in your library staff. Update your book stock. Our school libraries are places of magic. Feed them. Water them. Nurture them. And they will flourish.

Here’s to raising a generation of readers. Because reading matters. And books change lives. This week for World Book Day, and every week.

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