Reading Spine

//Reading Spine

In this blog English Leader at Carnagill Community Primary School, Sarah Bradshaw, writes about the transformative power of teachers reading aloud every day and how this has grown pupils’ love of reading and stories…

It all started in Year 6. One particular year group were finding lunchtimes difficult. To calm them down, when they got into class, to stop the bickering and tears, the teacher at the time started to read to them. They were engaged from the moment she started to read. It was a moment of peace in a crazy day, time to breathe, slow down and listen to a variety of stories. As Literacy Leader, I suggested we start to do this with all year groups. Along with the Early Reading Leader, we developed a reading spine linked to our six attitudes:

  • Independence
  • Curiosity
  • Kindness
  • Pride
  • Commitment
  • Aspiration

These six attitudes are looked at every half-term and shared with the school. They are introduced in assemblies and children are celebrated in Friday assemblies if they show these attitudes around school.

We thought, why not link them to the books and the vast knowledge of books we read every year to our children? It would be a chance to share independent characters, diverse settings, aspiring futures and at the same time develop a love of books. It also allowed me to go on a spending spree and buy so many books for the children – a job I will never get bored of!

It was an opportunity to show the teachers as readers. We have all been there when we have told the children to “read quietly” in class – some children will fall into a book and not move their head; some will pretend to read and have the book upside down; one child will read six books in 30 seconds and some children will look simply lost as they cannot read or decode words independently – and to fit in they will chose the thickest book in the library. All the children, whatever age or understanding, can access these books when read to. They sit and listen – in their chair, on the carpet, holding their reading buddy. There have been gasps of shock, cries of laughter and the occasional “I was right!” being shouted out as the children learn more about a character.

The books have been chosen by successes from the past, personal experiences of the staff and traditional classics. It has opened the children’s eyes to different worlds, and the impact has been strong. It allows us to connect with the children and share a love of a book – wanting to know what happens next. If I am out of class and miss an afternoon, I must catch up as I am so upset if I miss a chapter! The children come in after lunch ready to read, retaining information and speaking up to say what they think. My afternoon now starts with “What chapter are we on?” and ends with “What page will we read tomorrow?” My biggest surprises have been my biggest successes. One boy in my class, who doesn’t like to read, has told me “Remember when she said this in chapter two”, when we are about 17 chapters in. It showed me how much he and all the others were absorbing the book and listening, even when I thought they weren’t. As we came to the end of the Weather Weaver, by Tamsin Mori, I was so excited to find books two and three, A Gathering Storm and Winter’s Keep. This little boy that doesn’t like reading, has already asked his mum and dad for book two and three for Christmas. What he doesn’t know is him mum has already contacted me for the name and got them ordered. The power of reading can travel.

In Year 5/6 there has been positive feedback from both staff and children. One child said of The Last Bear by Hannah Gold “There is another book called The Lost Whale. I love this book, so I have asked my mum to buy the next one”. It allows children to be opened up to different genres and authors, and the Year 6 teacher has been impressed by the amount of conversation and discussion it has opened up. One girl showed me her drawing – which they are allowed to do as the teacher reads. It is a near perfect copy of the front cover, inspiring her to learn about polar bears. “It’s not finished yet – I do a little bit every day while Miss is reading” she explained to me. A real-life chance encounter was also produced because of this book…scrolling through my Facebook page late one night, I saw a zoom video chat with Hannah Gold was to become available the very next day. I sent it to the Year 5/6 teachers, expecting them to say they couldn’t incorporate this due to the short notice. They both replied within minutes – all booked! Maths can wait. I didn’t tell the maths leader this……thank to our reading spine, children have been introduced to new books, authors and illustrators. New experiences they will hopefully treasure.

For me, it is showing the children that books, drawings, and pieces of work, are not read or written in one day. It takes time, commitment and curiosity to keep going with a book. These are skills we are encouraging the children to learn – to take time out of the busy pace of the school day and develop a love for reading.

Sarah Bradshaw

English Leader