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Making time for reading

Studies have proven that students who read at least 15 minutes a day see great improvements in their overall academic progress. Yet the same studies also clearly indicate that more than half of our students fail to read the magic 15 minutes per day. The question then seems to be how can we as teachers reverse this trend and bring the magic of reading into our classrooms on a regular basis? Read on to find out more…

Although we often have good intentions as teachers and educators to make reading a regular practice in our classrooms, we are often burdened by cumbersome programmes, which leave us little to no free time to do the things that we love with our students, like reading for pleasure. To make matters worse there is the added pressure of exams and stakeholders like parents who equate a “good” teacher with the results that students achieve in their exams. So, how can we go around this and make time for our students to read?

Before we go any further, let’s stop and think for a moment. Is it absolutely fundamental for our students to read in class? Could they just not read at home instead? Would the end result not be the same? If so, then this would be an easy way to solve our time management issue, right? Although this might seem to be a tempting idea, we need to bear in mind that we teachers are mirrors in our classrooms. We mirror what is important to students. If we think that reading is that important, then we need to show them this by taking a break from our “important” exam work and making time for reading in our lessons. In addition, it is undeniable that nowadays it is not enough to tell students just how magical reading is. If we really want students to take this idea on board, then we need to take them on various reading adventures in the classroom so that they can experience this reading magic directly for themselves. But how do we do this if we are pressed for time? Here are three ideas to get you started:

1. Trigger students’ natural curiosity

Some classes are simply not ready to read on their own yet. They need to take a step back and have someone read to them before they are convinced that reading truly is a magical experience and are ready to embark on this reading adventure autonomously. Save ten minutes every fortnight to read to them at the end of your last lesson for the week. Choose a reader and read as dramatically as you can to them. Remember to involve the children in the reading experience by stopping and asking the children to do gestures as they hear certain words or even asking them predicting and critical thinking questions. Then, when your ten minutes are up, explain that unfortunately it’s time to pack up. Stress that you don’t have time to finish off the story but that you are glad to lend them the book should they want to find out how the story ends… If you have chosen a story that appeals to your students’ characteristics and curiosity, then you’ll soon find that you have a waiting line to take the book home!

2. Introduce reading in the moments when you wouldn’t be able to work anyway.

Have you ever stopped and observed how students come to class in the morning every day? If you teach first thing in the morning (or after lunch for that matter) you’ll know that unfortunately our students aren’t all that punctual. Whilst it is true that many of our students arrive on time, then there are those who are like the rain: they arrive slowly one drop at a time, which means that at least 10 minutes go by before we are actually able to begin our lesson with the whole class. (By which point we have said the same thing over at least three of four times!) The same phenomenon happens after a PE lesson. How long do the children take to arrive in your class and be ready to work after they have had physical education? The answer is far too long! So why not use this time more productively rather than continue to wage a hopeless battle against it?

Create a reading box with a variety of readers that you think that your students will enjoy reading. Put in a book for yourself too. Explain to children that from now on you will start the day with a bit of quiet reading time. Allow each child to choose the book they want to read and explain that if they discover that they don’t like that book, they can just get up and swop it for another one. As children arrive, get them to pick up a book, sit down and read quietly until you show them the signal that it’s time to start working. It is absolutely fundamental that you mirror this and read your own book so that students will buy into the activity. Don’t allow students to interrupt your reading time and ask you a question or even give you an important note from their parents. If this happens, explain that you are busy reading now and that they should come back when you have finished. Avoid the temptation at all costs to do paperwork or any errand (no matter how important or urgent it may be) while the children are reading. You’ll soon notice that this is an excellent classroom management activity as it helps to calm the children down and get into a learning frame of mind. When the whole class has arrived and read for a few minutes, then you are ready to stop reading and begin your lesson.

3. Take reading out of the classroom

Once students are convinced that reading is fun, then you are ready to embark on the next phase of your joint reading adventure. Involve parents in making a reading bag for their children. You’ll be amazed just how creative and competitive children’s parents can be! Then, put three or four readers that are suitable for each student in their personalised bag (for a list of readers consult the ladybird catalogue at https://www.ladybirdeducation.co.uk/books/ladybird-readers/) and invite them to take the reading bag home once a week and read the story with someone they love (a family member, a neighbour or even a friend). This is possible as on the ladybird website (www.ladybirdeducation.co.uk) website, one can download the audio of the ladybird reader in British or American English.

Although this might appear to be an insignificant detail, it is actually essential in guaranteeing that everyone can “read” the reader at home even if their English is very weak. The audios are read by native speakers at a speed that everyone can naturally follow regardless of their language level. Once the children have read the reader with the person of their choice, then they fill in a page on their reading passport, which you can prepare in advance. See image below:

The idea of filling up a passport with our exciting reading adventures is a motivating concept for children. You’ll soon find that they race to read so that they can get a new “passport”. It’s amazing how many books children read when they are motivated to do so!

So, what’s the moral of today’s blog? Use your time wisely and delegate the magic of reading to students and their families. After all, you know what the wise old saying says: “Never do what children can do for themselves!” Glory, Glory, this is the end of today’s story…