With the start of the new school year, we are exploring strategies to support children reading for pleasure. We spoke to Francine Franklin, Children's Librarian at Derby City Council to find out how teachers can nurture pupils' interest in reading outside of the National Curriculum and about the important role that libraries have to play in inspiring a love of reading.
How can teachers encourage reading for pleasure?
Teachers play such an important part in introducing children to books and reading. It begins with nursery-school children – making sure 3-year-olds have their Bookstart packs and encouraging parents to read with their little ones.
Teachers need to be seen to read themselves. How can you expect children to read if you don’t? The classroom should be full of books and reading materials which pupils can browse and have the opportunity to take home should they wish to. One of my local schools had a few sessions of ‘whole school reading’ at the start of the day – this meant that for 15 minutes everyone read something for pleasure, from the headteacher to the cleaners and the caretaker. It didn’t have to be anything very erudite – it could be newspapers, magazines, graphic novels or picture books.
It is important for teachers to nurture children’s interests outside of the National Curriculum and to find books to awaken their imaginations, so for example if you come across a child with a passion for dinosaurs, find lots of books about dinosaurs. I was made aware of a student at a special needs school who had a passion for opera and through a dedicated teacher who found him lots of books on this subject, he was able to recount endless stories from different operas. This particular student had very low levels of communication but when it came to a subject he was passionate about, he was very verbal and made himself easily understood. All thanks to the power of books.
Teachers need to keep up to date with trends in publishing and be aware of new authors and popular series. The best way to do that is by visiting a local bookshop or the nearest public library and seeing what’s on display and on the shelves.
Too many teachers rely on what they read as children which is probably quite dated and may not even be in print any longer, or they think it is good to recommend the ‘classics’ which may have their place in the literary canon but might be difficult for some young modern readers to get into.
Teachers need to encourage library membership. They can take their classes to the library for visits and encourage pupils to borrow books. Make sure children collect their free book for World Book Day.
Do you have any tips to convert reluctant readers?
I truly believe there is the right book for everyone. If you don’t like reading then you haven’t found the right book yet! And if you are a reluctant reader then you probably have had a bad experience early on in your reading journey. Reading needs to be seen as a fun thing to do as well as the more serious side when we need to read for study and learning. There are many different genres to try out for the reluctant reader. Look for books with more illustrations, look for graphic novels, check the print size, as very small print can be off-putting. What is the reluctant reader really interested in? There will be a book about it.
What role do libraries have in helping to encourage reading for pleasure?
Libraries are truly wonderful places. They have so many wonderful resources from board books for babies, to picture books, books for younger readers and children just starting to read, junior fiction, books for teenagers and young adults. Not to mention non-fiction to help with homework and for hobbies and interests.
One of the truly amazing things about libraries is the sheer volume of stock. When children say to me “Oh well I’ve got lots of books at home,” I always reply: “Yes, I’m sure you have but we have got lots more in the library.” If you can’t find what you want on the shelves then you can request the item and the library will get it for you. It is vital that we keep libraries open!