All I Want for Christmas is a Happy Reader

By Margaret Allen, Strategic Education Manager

As the term draws to a close, many of us are struggling to keep the children focused as festive fun and the promise of presents create a major distraction and barrier to learning. Now, as teachers we know that embracing the holiday spirit and bringing this into lesson themes is an excellent way to engage the children; especially at a time when all they really want to think about is whether they have made it on to Santa’s ‘good’ list and what gifts might be waiting for them on Christmas morning… But when it comes to their reading development, how can we help ensure that they continue to make progress during the busy Christmas holidays?

Parental engagement is an excellent place to start. Whether you are trying to encourage reluctant readers or keep high achievers engaged, collaborating with parents provides an excellent way of embedding reading in home life and making it less of a ‘school’ activity. Sounds simple, right? Most things do in theory, but as you have probably already experienced – reality can be very different.

Parents are already juggling work, home, rest and play, so if we can find ways to make it easier for them to inspire a love for reading at home, it will ultimately help children to learn that reading is not just something you ‘do’ at school. AR BookFinder (www.arbookfind.co.uk) is a free online tool which can help parents to quickly and easily identify books which not only suit their child’s reading ability, but equally important – interest them.

Given children’s understandable obsession with Christmas at this time of year, parents can use AR BookFinder to find books related to this topic. A quick search of ‘Christmas’ listed over 240 books across a variety of interest levels, spanned both fiction and non-fiction and gave a wide choice of genres including animals, arts, adventure and classics. For any parent who wants to help their child’s reading progression but is unsure of what books to read with them, read to them or encourage independent reading; signposting them to AR BookFinder is a good way of providing access to an excellent resource which essentially requires no support from the teacher.

However, for those schools that benefit from Accelerated Reader, the advantages of AR BookFinder extend further as you can give parents a key code which enable them to search for the most relevant books for their child, based on current ability and interest.

Given that a child’s experience of books and reading starts long before entering formal education, as primary teachers we can be faced with classes of very mixed reading abilities. This means we can also be faced with very mixed parental attitudes towards reading. To help teachers to engage with these diverse audiences, Home Connect, which comes as part of the Accelerated Reader programme, is another tool that makes it easier for busy parents to keep up to date with their child’s progress. Rather than having to wait for parents’ evening, they can simply log into Home Connect from anywhere with an internet connection (home, office, or on the go) and view the overall progress for a current marking period or school year.

For parents who are time poor, Home Connect also helps to better involve them in their child’s reading progress. It allows them to drill down in details on books that have recently been read – which could stimulate discussion at home about a book, especially when a child might need more encouragement to share details about their school day. Also think about those parents who might be missing out on an opportunity such as ‘paired reading’ because of time constraints. While Home Connect does not replace such opportunities, it can go some way towards involving parents who simply cannot get into school during normal working hours.

And with everyone gearing up for the holiday break, including parents, now is an opportune time to spread some Christmas cheer and give the gift of reading! Accelerated Reader has got it all wrapped up for you for free – simply share www.arbookfind.co.uk.

Another great parental advice resource I came across recently has lots of practical tips to help improve ‘reading power’ at home – it’s definitely worth a look here.

On that note, I’d like to wish you all a Happy Holiday and look forward to blogging again in the New Year, when all eyes will be on Bett!

Margaret Allen
Strategic Education Manager

Margaret Allen is Strategic Education Manager for Primary schools at Renaissance Learning. She uses practical experience from her time teaching in primary classrooms to help teachers across the UK to get the most out of Accelerated Reader.

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