Okay, it’s the end of the school year and time to put my money where my mouth is… A year ago, we started taking reading for pleasure seriously – we built a new library, overhauled the number and quality of books across the school and launched a range of initiatives to get children and staff enjoying reading more – and now I’ve got to account for it in order to continue the work next year and build on the work we’ve done so far. So, the findings:

Attainment

Looking at the progress data for the same cohort of children over the same time period two years running, we found:

  • an increase in average progress in reading comprehension of 84% in Year 4. This was the year most involved with re-establishing guided reading, use of the library and recommendations culture.
  • one Year 4 class saw over 100% increase in average progress over a year (though it’s worth noting this teacher was already fully bought-in to the idea of reading for pleasure).
  • in Year 5, the rate of progress increased year on year by 54%.

And the stat everyone seems more interested in…

  • At the end of Key Stage 2 this year, Level 4s and above in reading were up year on year from 74% to 92%.

Attitudes to reading

100 children in Year 4 were surveyed a year ago, and the same children surveyed again earlier this week and we found:

  • the number of children who do not like reading fell from approximately 40% to 10%.
  • at the other end of the scale, children who reported enjoying reading very much rose from 25% to 50%.
  • similar findings for the amount children read outside school, with a dramatic increase in the number of children reporting they read several times a week or daily.

We asked the children what accounted for any differences in their attitude to reading: the majority quoted the library and a wider selection of quality books as major reasons for their improved experience of reading. Some children mentioned reading was discussed more in school, that they had received recommendations from other children and teachers, some commented on improved support from teachers and a few mentioned the reading garden as inspiring them.

Borrowing

  • Last year, Key Stage 2 children borrowed 2000 books, this year the figures is already 6000.
  • Borrowing was up by over 100% in the Key Stage 1 library (2700 books).
  • There was a noticeable increase in boys’ borrowing – over half the top borrowers in the Key Stage 2 library are now boys (this is also reflected in the top authors borrowed, which include Tom Palmer, Terry Deary, Andy Stanton and Anthony Horowitz).

It is worth noting, some of the children who considered themselves the most reluctant readers in school, are now the most active in borrowing

Anecdotal evidence

  • Children’s comments are important in building up a picture of attitudes to reading as are staff comments.
  • Comments from the majority of staff on increased booktalk, and noticeable increase in staff booktalk. One member of staff, a confirmed non-reader, has had the most profound about-turn: she approached me a couple of weeks ago to insist we do more of the same next year and that she has never seen children so engaged. This is the stat that means the most to me, the evidence at least one teacher has begun to see the possibilities of changing children’s lives through reading for pleasure.

Of course, the evidence above doesn’t prove an awful lot – there’s no direct link to be made between the things we did (rebuilding the school library, employing a full time librarian, making storytime sacrosanct, building a reading garden, increasing curriculum time for reading activities, holding regular recommendation sessions and bedtime reading events and getting more authors in to talk to the children etc etc) and the impact on results, but it all seems to build up a picture of what a focus on reading for pleasure can really do. However, we’ve Children’s commentslearned a lot and it’s been a buzz trying to get both teachers and children to read and talk about reading with passion.

Currently reading: The lady with the little dog, by Chekhov

Currently listening to: The planes, which seem excessively loud to me this evening