Thursday 30 January 2020

Making Story-Sharing a Habit of a Lifetime and Creating Readers for Life

At St Joseph’s, reading is a key part of day-to-day school life; reading is ingrained into all areas of learning.  In Mathematics, for example, there is a huge emphasis on comprehension and it is wonderful to see such close collaboration in the curriculum and in our pupils’ lessons.  Children have the opportunity to access regular library sessions and to explore and challenge themselves with new literature.

Mrs Apperley’s Book Club has been successfully running as an extra-curricular activity for many years. Over the last decade, a great number of boys and girls, aged eight to 11, have enjoyed the benefits of joining together as a group to share the reading and discussion of the same novel. Titles such as White Dolphin and Moon Bear by Gill Lewis, with their strong environmental themes, have been enthusiastically devoured by our young readers and their parents. Taking the book home to continue with an adult as a shared text – or to be read to – has received a tremendous response, with parents finding themselves drawn in and hooked by the story too. The positive, unpressured and nurturing atmosphere of the Book Club has encouraged students to develop this life enhancing skill with growing confidence and fluency. This term, 10 students have joined and they are already gripped by the exciting adventures of Chaya in The Girl Who Stole an Elephant by Nizrana Farook. This new novel – which touches on themes of loyalty, bravery and friendship – is set in the jungle of Sri Lanka, linking brilliantly with the Year 3 and 4 Rainforests topic; building on their knowledge, developing their interest as well as their imagination. A love of reading has been a distinct and rewarding outcome of the group for many pupils, their parents and, of course, Mrs Apperley.

As an indicator for future academic success, reading is fundamental. Here is an interesting statistic: if you read for 20 minutes a day, you will encounter an estimated 1.8 million words over the course of the year, whereas reading for only one minute a day will result in encountering only 8,000 words.  Pupils who read for at least 20 minutes per day and enjoy reading do better at school. The more they read, the wider their general knowledge and vocabulary will be. 

Of course, at school, a critically important skill is reading for comprehension, as well as developing the skill of inferring meaning from text.  We need to know between 90-95% of the words in a text in order to understand it.  If you are looking up the meaning of 10 words or more within a page, the working memory can become overloaded.  It is not just about text books, we feel exploring different types of text and reading sources, like comics, magazines, interactive stories and newspapers really helps provide our pupils with a rounded experience of reading.

More than ever, pupils are seeing the benefits of reading for pleasure, and we are committed to challenging and encouraging our children to explore a range of literature for all sorts of different purposes.  Our pupils understand the importance of reading and how it has an impact on all aspects of life and future prospects. 

Cressida Cowell, the 2019 Waterstones Children’s Laureate, has drawn up a 10-point charter:

‘Every child has the right to…’

  1. Read for the joy of it
  2. Access NEW books in schools, libraries and bookshops
  3. Have advice from a trained librarian or bookseller
  4. Own their OWN book
  5. See themselves reflected in a book
  6. Be read aloud to
  7. Have some choice in what they read
  8. Be creative for at least 15 minutes a week
  9. See an author event at least ONCE
  10. Have a planet to read on

As we look forward to another exciting World Book Day on Thursday 5 March, we will be among those sharing a million stories as part of the nationwide campaign to help change children’s lives, by making story-sharing a habit of a lifetime and creating readers for life. We want to raise awareness of reading and spark imaginations.

Spending just 10 minutes a day reading and sharing stories with children can make a crucial difference to their education. You can read together anywhere and everywhere, the park, on the train, on the sofa, on a plane from breakfast to bedtime!

Mrs Wood

Head of Prep School

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