Dedicated reading time should be at the heart of the school day

Children with books

Few can argue against the idea that good literacy skills are the key building block for learning. A recent report in the Telegraph highlights the obvious fact that there is a clear correlation between literacy improvements and the amount of time spent reading. The article, however, also asserts that all too often schools are unable to build dedicated reading time into the school timetable. Many Independent schools manage to factor in time, so why can’t state schools do the same?

Literacy at school does get the attention it deserves, but time dedicated to reading for pleasure is often squeezed out of the academic timetable. According to the Telegraph, “a recent survey of young people found that, overall, just half of six to eight-year-olds, 25 per cent of 12 to 14-year-olds, and 11 per cent of 15 to 17-year-olds, get the opportunity to read for pleasure during the school day.”

The Renaissance study of young people’s reading habits found that primary school pupils across the UK push themselves to read suitably difficult books, but secondary school pupils often do not read books sufficiently challenging enough to develop their reading skills.
As a result, the research found that reading ages are slipping to such an extent that by the time pupils come to sit their GCSEs at 16, they typically have an average reading age of a 13 year old.

This has far reaching effects for pupils in their GCSE exams. With poor reading skills pupils will struggle to understand examination questions. It is clear that dedicated reading in schools from an early age will have huge benefits across a broad range of subjects. Dirk Foch, Managing Director of Renaissance UK, the organisation responsible for carrying out the research, said, “the question now is for policy makers and teachers to develop ways to build more reading time into the school curriculum, particularly in secondary school. If we invest time into this now it will pay dividends for future generations in the long term.”

Book with page folded in heart shape

Here are 5 top tips from the experts on how to get your pupils reading more:

1. Talk to parents to find out what support they need to encourage them to help their children to read at home.
2. Keep up to date with children’s literature. There is a great book out there for everyone. See if your school is able to appoint/nominate a literature specialist to advise on introducing a wider range of poets’ and writers’ works into the school.
3. Encourage children to read every day. Give children 15 minutes a day to read in school, and get reading buddies in the classroom to support reluctant readers.
4. Turn your school into a book-loving place. Start by setting up book clubs to include all of the teachers and all of the children.
5. Celebrate reading achievements in special book-themed school assemblies.

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