Michael's 20-point plan shares ideas and activities to help make your school a place where everyone talks about reading. We know that you will be doing a lot of these already, but we hope you will come across some new ideas you will enjoy using too.
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:
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
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.
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:
Ideas for finding the right people to run exciting reading events at your school:
Forge and maintain good contacts with booksellers, since they can provide support for the writers, speakers, performers and story-tellers who visit your school.
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.
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.
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.
Your aim is to have an active book club that includes every teacher and every child in every class, and their carers too.
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.
Trips to the library
Create an information pack
Get the word out
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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...
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".
Make sure you incorporate books whenever there is a themed activity at the school.
Some ideas to make it happen
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…
Make reading intriguing by finding a place for old or strange books to lurk in the school, alongside information literacy.
Do this by...
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.
Search the web for the best sites with reviews of children's books that have been written by children as well as adults.
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.
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.
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:
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
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:
and books by:
"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.
To ensure all your children are excited by reading, provide a variety of reading materials to suit their various interests.
Performance is another good way to engage children in the excitement of stories, by bringing the text off the page.
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."
Establish a school culture that values the sharing of favourite books from childhood, and you will uncover some fascinating stories together.
Get started by...
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.
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.
We hope you've enjoyed reading Michael's top tips and that you feel enthused about continuing the Reading Revolution in your school.
Discover new and exciting books for your class.
Michael introduces a broad range of ideas that can be adopted or adapted to shape your school.
More ideas and great books to help start your Reading Revolution.
Take a look at Literacy Evolve, created by Heinemann in association with Michael Rosen.