1. Improve home-school liaison

    A good starting point is to have someone from each Year group who is responsible for talking with individual parents and carers about their child's reading.

    The discussion should be:

    1. very specific, and matched to the interests of a child and his or her parents or carers
    2. about particular books, magazines and reading websites, about named libraries (ideally including a local one that is easy to get to) or book clubs that might interest the child and his or her carers
    3. ongoing, not a one-off chat. The follow-up discussion should include a review of what worked well, and it's a chance to offer lots of new ideas about new books, magazines and other reading that will hold the interest and enthusiasm of the child.

    Michael believes that it's important to share the idea that books and talking about books really matter. This can be difficult when the main leisure activities of many families can be watching TV, playing computer games or spending time in online chatrooms. He says that to help children understand the importance of books, "We have to think about libraries, about free books for children. This means we have to encourage children to visit their local library. And this means involving the parents as well. There are plenty of parents who don't even know what is available in the local library, or even where it is." Watch Michael

  2. Hold events

    Another great idea is to have writers, illustrators, storytellers, librarians, and book enthusiasts of all kinds visiting your school regularly to talk about books and perform to your children and their carers.

    Quick and easy events to promote reading

    There will be events that won't take lots of time to organise. The key is making sure you hold regular events, as this will help your school to become a place where everyone talks about books and reading - if it isn't already happening in your school.

    Pull-the-stops-out events to create a splash

    Go for a more ambitious event held once a year or every term. Why not have a launch event for the first day of your campaign to join the Reading Revolution! Once everyone feels inspired by the first event, ask the children and their carers for ideas about what kind of reading event they'd like to hold next.

    Reading enthusiasts

    You can invite people who are passionate about reading into the school, but there will be lots of book enthusiasts among the teaching and support staff, parents and carers, and older children in the school already. These individuals might enjoy becoming Reading Buddies for younger or more reluctant readers.

    It's important to set out some ground rules for Reading Buddies. Here are a few:

    1. Spread enthusiasm for reading. Some able children love reading; others who read well are turned off from reading. Other children find it hard to even get started, but there will be something every pupil is passionate about, and finding this out at the beginning will help when they choose their first book for the Reading Buddy session.
    2. Make sure you have plenty of books available that will appeal to your more reluctant readers. For example, include reading materials based on a sport or cartoon characters as well as non-fiction.
    3. Ask the able reader Buddy to let the reluctant reader choose the book for the session.
    4. Support the Buddy by helping them work out when it might be a good time for the other pupil to play a bigger role in the reading, if appropriate. But give Reading Buddies freedom to run the sessions the way they want – trust them to make it work and for some of that enthusiasm to rub off.
    5. Think about growing the passion for reading over the long-term rather than expecting immediate results. The involvement of peers can make a huge difference to the way some children think about books.
    6. Provide sufficient time in the school timetable for the Reading Buddies system to work, and to enable the pairs of children to read whole books.

    Finding the right people for the job

    Ideas for finding the right people to run exciting reading events at your school:

    1. Ask children to volunteer as Reading Buddies.
    2. Send an enthusiastic note home asking for adult volunteers to come in and perform stories, to sing songs about favourite characters, and to act as an extra pair of hands in class to help every individual child to make their own book.
    3. Seek advice from your local librarian on running events, and see Section 6 'Information on libraries' for further ideas.
    4. Booktrust has a helpful page of links that will help you to find writers, illustrators, and storytellers for your school.
  3. Create close links with booksellers

    Forge and maintain good contacts with booksellers, since they can provide support for the writers, speakers, performers and story-tellers who visit your school.

    How to do it

    1. Invite into school not only a syndicated book fair, but also local and specialist bookshops.
    2. If there's a children's section in your local bookseller's, the buyer or shop manager (sometimes the same person) will have a good overview of what published books are available. He or she will also be knowledgeable about authors and illustrators, and used to organising author visits to schools and setting up a bookstall for selling copies of the books at the same time.
    3. Increase awareness about the places where books are available by including information in your school pack given to all families at the school (see Section 6 'Information on local libraries'). Exactly like a library, it's free to go into and browse round children's bookshop, and there are usually comfy places to just read!
    4. Many good booksellers have regular storytelling sessions in their shops, often on Saturday afternoons, and sometimes on Sundays. They will sometimes feature authors and illustrators, including well-known ones, and/or local authors who have been working in school with the children already. Set up a regular email update with your local bookseller so that you can let the children know when to time their visit to the shop. You might have time to send a short note home about it, or to put a newsflash on your school's website.
  4. Appoint a school librarian

    The aim is to have someone who is trained and interested in running a school library. If you don't have one already, setting up a school library takes time and commitment, and keeping it running in a way that continues to inspire children has the same requirements. But it is also key to encouraging reading. Through immersion in good books, children can gain an understanding about social skills such as insight and compromise, which as you know helps any school run more happily and smoothly.

    A first step

    Try starting with a small library in every classroom. Get together with colleagues and work through some of the common objections to this. Write them down. You might come up with...

    Not enough space?

    Make room. If the library is hidden rather than open for every child to access in a school hall or space where everyone goes, books may become sidelined. On the other hand, if a selection of books are in each classroom, teachers can work with the school librarian to select and theme the library to suit current discussions and curriculum work. And the books can be circulated to different classes throughout each term.

    Not enough in-school expertise?

    Bring it in. The children's expert at your local library should be able to allocate time to come in to your school to help you set up the kind of library that suits your needs. They will have a wealth of knowledge about promoting and supporting reading that can shared.

    Not enough time?

    Find a volunteer. If you ask, you might find a parent/carer, or better still, two parents/carers, who can support the teachers, and perhaps eventually take on the job.

    Use it!

    Once you have your fabulous library or multiple libraries set up in the school, make sure you find time for the children to use it regularly.

  5. Set up school book clubs

    Your aim is to have an active book club that includes every teacher and every child in every class, and their carers too.

    A few ideas

    1. Conduct a survey and ask everyone what kind of club/s there should be.
    2. To appeal to everyone, you might need to set up more than one club so that you can draw on children's different interests. The model for one club should be usable for all of the others, with a few tweaks.
    3. Work with your school librarian and other book enthusiasts to organise the appropriate books and to help the club run smoothly.
    4. Promote the book club/s with help from the children, and cover some of your literacy objectives at the same time. For example, you might challenge your pupils to design posters promoting membership of the club.
    5. Refresh the books frequently to generate wide-ranging, and in-depth, conversations about reading.
  6. Share information on local libraries

    Your aim is to have every family in the school aware of where the local library is, its opening times, what's available to the children, and to become familiar with using these fantastic public institutions regularly. The books are usually free to borrow, and offer children the opportunity to read whole books all of the time, rather than excerpts.

    So how do you do it?

    Trips to the library

    1. In school time, take children to the local library and bookshop/s if you have them. Plan the visit ahead of time by liaising with the local librarian and bookshop owner, so that everyone gets good value out of the visit.

    Create an information pack

    1. Make visits to the local library appealing by creating an exciting information pack for your children and their parents/carers. Make the pack attractive by:
      • personalising it with your school logo
      • using photographs and artwork
      • using quotes from pupils who love reading, saying how brilliant particular sections of the library and bookshop are to suit their particular interests, or why a particular event at the library was so inspiring. Give specific examples wherever you can, but enough of them that so that you have a wide coverage and overall appeal. So stories about fairies and football, non-fiction about pirates and craft... there are too many to name here.
      • using quotes from parents/carers who are book enthusiasts and who will happily recommend their favourite reads. Present the recommendations in a way that appeals to reluctant adult readers too.
      • include clear facts and figures about the library, including opening times and how many books can be borrowed.
      • draw on a colleague's computer skills to bring the quotes and colourful images together into eye-catching graphics that capture the imagination of families who are not currently tuned in to reading.
      • you could set it as a school or year group challenge to design an attractive library and bookshop information pack for the school. Get creative!

    Get the word out

    1. Give a copy of the pack to every family at the school.
    2. Promote the use of the local library and bookshop at every opportunity in order to make every child and their family feel comfortable in these environments. For example:
      • make this the subject of an assembly, and mention it often in passing at other assemblies
      • include it in the headteacher's website letter on the school's home page, and in letters home
      • have it as an item on the agenda for every discussion with every family on Parents' Night
      • ensure there are copies that can be picked up in hotspots including the school entrance
      • and don't forget about your local bookshop/s if you have them. Take a look at Section 2 'Close links with booksellers' for further ideas.
  7. Adopt an author or illustrator

    If you can, aim to work with an author or illustrator, and ideally both, for an extended period of time. This is a great way to achieve some of your literacy objectives about understanding an author's work in more depth. If you bring them in to school, or work on a project with them online, you can also promote creativity in the classroom.

    How to find the right author for your school

    1. First decide what you want to achieve. Perhaps you have a theme that's running for the term or year that you'd like to tie in with, so you can look for an author who has written in this area.
    2. Then work out what kind of visit you want it to be, for example the author reading from their book, or a workshop focusing on creative writing. Visit the Society of Authors website
    3. 'Sell authors' in your school by putting up pictures and information about them, and if you have a screen in your reception area, you could put up a rolling film about favourite authors and illustrators.

    Organisations that provide lists of creative people

    1. Booktrust has a helpful page of 11 links to writers, illustrators, and storytellers, including organisations with a national remit and regional organisations
    2. Artscape directory.
    3. Children's Writers and Illustrators Group (CWIG) of the Society of Authors.
    4. SAS (Scattered Authors' Society) has some great writers and illustrators of children's books.
    5. There will be others in your own region that can you find through a web search.
  8. Try book-making

    Show them off

    There will be many occasions when these books can be shown to school visitors.

    School foyer... set up a display in the entrance. If you have time, this could be themed with a title-board made by the children, or something quick printed in colour from a school computer. The focus could be a particular class or it could be across different ages if there's a common subject, such as several year groups working on an environmental theme, or running a project on a particular author. Encourage the school receptionist to point out the display when welcoming school visitors.

    Parents' night... formal meetings with carers, such as on Parents' night, are perfect opportunities to bring out the hand-made books and celebrate the children's achievements. Be explicit - directly encourage families to extend the book-making techniques children have learnt in school to a home situation. If the pupils have siblings, this could be an opportunity for a child to share their skills by showing brothers and sisters how to do it.

    School website... This is a good way to publicise children's book-making, as the images can be available wherever and whenever families want to look at them, as long as they have an internet connection. For families who don't, encourage them to use the computers at the public library. They will see what books and other media are available for loan in the library, at the same time.

    Assembly.... take it in turns for each class to hold up their hand-made books for all to see in assembly.

    Get carers to take part

    Making hand-made books needs lots more pairs of hands! Depending on the techniques you're planning to use, book-making can include cutting, hole-punching, sticking, stapling, sewing, keyboard skills if you're using the computer – all physical skills that need plenty of support if children are going to build their knowledge of book-making.

    Just ask... don't be shy of asking the carer of every child in your class if they have a free hour, at a regular time each week if possible, to come in and support the practical sessions. Any grandparents with years of experience in a professional, practical trade would be perfect for this role. If there's support of this kind, you and your teaching assistant aren't run ragged racing between desks doing everything yourselves.

    If you send the books home to be completed, this can encourage carers to get creative too.

    Book-making advice

    For practical ideas on making books, check out these links:

    This site includes help on making books by folding the paper, to books bound with elastic bands and more complicated scrolls if you're feeling ambitious. It's very practical, and there's a section for teachers.

    Excuse the use of Tech'Knowledge'y to stand for technology, as this site has some good ideas about using computers to support book-making.

  9. Share books

    Sharing books and encouraging conversations about them is vital for keeping reading enjoyment alive. Some ideas for sharing books include:

    Setting aside time with colleagues to brainstorm ideas that will work at your school to make books and reading difficult to ignore.

    1. Building time into the school day for book swaps, book reviews that are prominently displayed, assembly presentations of 'this week's good read', or book posters.
    2. Using school surveys and pupil suggestion boxes to find your own ideas for the best ways of sharing books.
    3. There will be keen readers who have a good idea about what books might interest more reluctant children. Pair them up as Reading Buddies.

    Michael says: "One crucial aspect of a 'Reading School' is that readers are inspiring each other about books, talking about authors' names, one child to another without the teacher necessarily being involved."

    Book awards

    Certificates handed out in assembly might run into hundreds, as you may award good effort and progress for your lower achievers as well as the achievements of your gifted and talented pupils. Whatever your approach, you can award effort and achievement associated with reading a high priority by giving out awards for hand-make books.

  10. Read widely

    School trips or events at your school are an ideal opportunity to get your children reading more widely. Depending on the theme of the trip or event, there will be many different sources of information and ideas about it.

    Seize the opportunities by...

    1. working closely with your school librarian to check the kinds of relevant books you already have in the building (see Section 4 'School Librarian')
    2. asking your local librarian to advise on books for the school to borrow
    3. sending a letter home and/or putting a message on the school's internet families to bring in relevant books and other literature to share. If it's a history or local geography project, the request might be something general like asking parents/carers what their favourite books were when they were children
    4. including anyone who is involved in the school: cleaners, caretakers, gardeners, dinner ladies. Some of these people will have been in the area all their lives and will have valuable knowledge they can share with the children.

    You can very efficiently cover cross-curricular objectives by running literacy together with a shared year group or school focus.

    As Michael says: "If we don't learn to love books, we don't read. And if we don't read widely, we don't think deeply".

  11. Try regular themed activities

    Make sure you incorporate books whenever there is a themed activity at the school.

    Some ideas to make it happen

    1. There are all kinds of local, national, and international projects activities going on during the academic year, and your school may already be involved in some of them. View these activities as opportunities to include reading.
    2. Arrange for each class to visit the local library and search for books to support the particular theme, and ask children to bring in magazines, pictures and other reading formats from home. The might include print-outs of material that children have browsed for on the internet.
    3. Reading of all kinds, in all genres, and for all ages will be stimulated by these activities, but you don't need to cover all bases at once. If you have an active and varied programme throughout the school year, you will have covered lots of ground by the holidays.
    4. Follow up term-time themed activities with reading challenges for the holidays.
  12. Get the reading habit

    Just by spending time on books and reading you are asking children to see their importance. This will really help children to see books in new and imaginative ways.

    Ideas to try…

    1. Develop a whole school policy about reading books out loud every day. For example, assembly is a great time to promote reading.
    2. Recommend to carers that they keep reading to their children.
    3. Encourage children's chat about the books they are reading. Every angle and approach is valid, and this is particularly true where reluctant readers are concerned.
    4. Run a survey asking every child in school the title and author of three books they read recently. See what happens after you've run your Reading Revolution campaign. You may find that children run out of space on the survey sheet! You can develop this quick survey idea into a more detailed book review challenge.
    5. Give children time to read a book in school every day. Don't give them excerpts that can be fitted in to 15 or 20 minutes, but instead 15 or 20 minutes for them to read from a whole book, and give reluctant readers support through use of a Reading Buddies scheme.

    Watch Michael

  13. Collect odd, old books

    Make reading intriguing by finding a place for old or strange books to lurk in the school, alongside information literacy.

    Do this by...

    1. having exciting, ever-changing, even weird books that provoke ideas and conversation in the headteacher's study and on every teacher's desk
    2. visiting a local charity shop or second-hand bookshop and picking up some odd, old books as bargain buys, if you're stuck for inspiration. Find different kinds of bindings such as leather and cloth, and with different styles of lettering such as gold blocking
    3. prompting the children to find out if there are any old books at home that aren't read any more. Is it because they're so covered in dust that their identity has become a mystery? Is there something intriguing lurking between those covers that you could discover in a whole class setting?
    4. displaying old posters or wall charts that show what book promotions used to look like. Experiment with tea-staining to make display lettering look aged.
    5. organising a book treasure hunt:
      • Hide books around the school, ideally thinking about why a particular book might be hidden in a particular spot. For example, bringing together the name of the author and an object in school, or the content of the story and the name of a teacher or room in the school.
      • Have a treasure hunt to find each of the old books hidden around the school.
      • Use your assembly to discuss what happened.

    Watch Michael

  14. Keep and use book reviews

    Another idea is to regularly cut out and keep, or cut and paste, reviews of children's books. All members of staff can regularly access the reviews, so that they keep informed about which new books are coming out, why they are good, and how they might link to ongoing work and discussions in the school.

    Getting started

    Search the web for the best sites with reviews of children's books that have been written by children as well as adults.

    For more information

    1. Stories from the Web provides opportunities for children to write and read book reviews – set the challenge for your pupils.
    2. CBBC has simple guidance on how to write a book review.
    3. Achuka reviews children's books.
    4. Books for Keeps contains thousands of book reviews.
    5. School Library Association has reviews and features about books; you must be a member to access the reviews.
    6. Look out for the children's book reviews in newspapers and magazines.

    Don't forget about them!

    Keep the best and most relevant reviews in an accessible place – either on a desk or shelf, or in a digital file on the computer system.

    Initiate a system of adding to and actively sharing the reviews with your colleagues, children and their parents/carers – don't let them grow dusty on a top shelf. For example, they could be the subject of a monthly staff training session after school.

  15. Avoid hidden catches

    Find time in the day for free reading as well as for discussions about that reading. Some of the chat should be between the children themselves, and it's important to hold back from setting a comprehension test every time a book is opened as this can become a barrier to enjoying reading.

    If you create regular opportunities to share the whole class's views about what they are reading, this allows the children to find out about other perspectives and to reflect on them.

    So, how do you go about it?

    It may be difficult to build time in to the school day for free reading and discussion. To avoid it being squeezed out by other things, establish a principle that in gaps such as waiting for a visitor to arrive, when a projector is being set up etc, children can get out their reading books or talk about what's happening in their books.

    You can support this principle by:

    1. showing a keen interest in the book that each child is reading.
    2. encouraging discussion by asking open-ended questions. For example, ask the children if anything like the incident in the book has happened in their lives.
    3. grouping children in different ways to chat about their books.
    4. not always knowing the answer to the questions you ask about the books children are reading. Show that you too are discovering, and that literature can have different meanings depending on your experiences, what you know, and even what kind of mood you woke up in.
    5. having your own book on the go that you can read in the gaps, alongside the children. You can chat about in an excited way, sharing your criticisms with the group, but take your turn!

    Michael recalls one book that really stood out when he was a boy at school. His teacher, Mr Scotney, read one chapter a week and Michael and his friends were desperate to know what happened next. Michael recommends: "Leave spaces where you can talk and argue about a book." Watch Michael

  16. Have plenty of books around

    Always make sure there are plenty of wonderful children's books in the room whenever a meeting about literacy is taking place. This is particularly important at times when teachers are helping parents/carers to understand the meaning of literacy.

    Some wonderful books...

    Michael has a list of books he recommends. It isn't exhaustive, but it's a start:

    1. Helen Oxenbury's 'So Much'
    2. Tony Ross's 'I Want My Potty'
    3. Shirley Hughes' 'Dogger'

    and books by:

    1. Quentin Blake
    2. Anthony Browne
    3. Lauren Child
    4. Emma Chichester Clark
    5. Polly Dunbar
    6. Michael Foreman
    7. Mick Inkpen
    8. Colin MacNaughton
    9. and many, many more.

    "Apologies to those I've not mentioned," says Michael.

    If the school budget doesn't stretch to buying these books, borrow them for your local library.

  17. Encourage varied reading

    To ensure all your children are excited by reading, provide a variety of reading materials to suit their various interests.

    Easy ways to provide materials to suit a broad range of interests

    1. As well as giving children the opportunity to enjoy 'classic' stories at school, there should be annuals and football programmes open at the Junior Supporters pages, as well as books that tie in with TV shows and films.
    2. Place a book basket at the front of the school, to catch children's eyes as they enter the building. Provide information about how the books can be borrowed, and make this process easy so that budding reading enthusiasts aren't put off at the first hurdle.
    3. Display the books in school face-out, so that the bright cover illustrations and graphics can capture the attention as well as provide information about what's inside.

    Watch Michael

  18. Perform stories

    Performance is another good way to engage children in the excitement of stories, by bringing the text off the page.

    Some ideas...

    1. Regularly wrap up meetings with carers with a read-aloud session from a children's book. Choose stories that are really well-suited to being read aloud, such as Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's masterpieces.
    2. Say very clearly at the beginning of the session that there is compulsory joining in! Encourage carers to be vocal by aiming for all staff to agree beforehand that they will join in, and provide encouragement and a good example.
    3. Enjoy it.

    Michael says: "Schools aren't just about teaching children to read, but teaching children to be social beings. And it's taken us thousands of years but we've invented these wonderful things called books and fiction and stories in order to find out how we should be social beings. Odysseus finds out how to be social; if you like, it's the theme of almost every book we put in front of children."

  19. Share precious books

    Establish a school culture that values the sharing of favourite books from childhood, and you will uncover some fascinating stories together.

    Get started by...

    1. Having a quick teacher meeting to come up with ideas on how you might encourage conversations to spark off about the personal stories related to the acquiring, ownership, and perhaps loss of a precious book. Starting with your own experiences can get the ideas rolling.
    2. Using the ideas you've come up with to encourage parents, grandparents, and other carers to share their memories of favourite books from childhood. For example, ask them to bring in and show off the books and magazines, no matter how humble, that they've kept since their childhoods.
    3. Avoiding responses that set one book off against another in relation to literacy merit and production quality. If the books are dog-eared, all the better – this can lead in to a conversation about what books can be made of.
    4. Time and inspiration permitting, turn the gathered memories into projects that support your curriculum objectives in an enjoyable way, without the need to squeeze reading into allocated slots through use of text extracts.
  20. Train colleagues on children's literature

    The aim is to be clear and vocal about your support for specific instruction on children's literature to be integrated once again into teacher and assistant training courses.

    How to raise the profile of children's literature training

    1)Talk with colleagues about what you as a school would change about the present system.
    2) Lobby relevant organisations to help make this happen.

    1. Teacher and assistant teacher training bodies such as the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) have a Curriculum Network development group that schools can get involved in from September 2009.
    2. The QCA also provide 'good practice' case studies and information on working with parents.
    3. Consult with your Local Authority to promote local needs such as continued, and perhaps increased, access to the rich resources in your local library.

    We hope you've enjoyed reading Michael's top tips and that you feel enthused about continuing the Reading Revolution in your school.

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