World War One Warriors

By Chris Jarosh

In this guest post, one of the UK’s first users of Renaissance Accelerated Reader talks about both the impact the programme had motivating reluctant readers and encouraging reading for pleasure – as well as her new book, ‘World War One Warriors’.

Accelerated Reader

As a young, newly appointed teacher librarian I had absolutely no idea how hard the task of improving the reading culture of the school was going to be (with a 20% literacy problem!).

Working in one of the largest comprehensives in the country, I did know it was not going to be easy.

The school had a sizeable library but, since the retirement of the previous librarian, the library, unstaffed, had become the sixth form common room.

After I realised my unbridled enthusiasm and passion for reading would not cut it, I decided to investigate what might make a difference.

It was clear the root of the problem was to match the students with appropriate books that would inspire them to read, and carry on reading.

The scale of the problem made this no easy task. Then, I read about Accelerated Reader and I thought it was worth a try.

The impact was immediate and quite dramatic. I still remember being met at the school gate by a very excited year seven boy who said,

‘Miss! Miss! I got £10 from my mum and dad for getting my first ever certificate for reading!’

We were on our way, and I think it is fair to say the success of Accelerated Reader and the huge effect it had on improving reading is one of the best memories of my career.

Today, it saddens me greatly that many schools may choose not to have Accelerated Reader, seeing it as an unaffordable luxury.

To my mind this is misguided at best. Reading is the foundation of so much educational success, and there are numerous studies to confirm this. Accelerated Reader is a tested way of improving reading and of developing a habit that will not just increase exam success, but enrich the lives of those children lucky enough to experience it.

Oh, and I have some great tips for anyone with a hard-core of students (including dyslexics) who are resistant all attempts to get them to read.

At the time, in desperation, I resorted to writing my own book to meet the needs of the refuseniks who insisted they just couldn’t find anything they like to read. As students with reading difficulties, narrow interests and wanting only short books this was a serious issue.

WWI Warriors

‘World War One Warriors’ is available to buy now from Amazon.

Enter, ‘World War One Warriors’

It began when I was presented with a young man who insisted there really were no books for him: short, action packed, based on real events and suddenly a picture of my grandfather flashed into my mind. The image was from an old photo. He died ten years before I was born. His story matched the criteria. I only found out about him because of my father’s unusual middle name: Workman. When I asked my mother about why he had this name, she said it was in memory of a man my grandfather rescued from enemy trenches under heavy fine in World War I.

This made me wonder about how many other men’s self-sacrifice was fading into the mists of time and how their stories couldn’t fail to interest my young students.

Some research later and my young reluctant readers and I were engrossed in the trenches of World War I.

First, the story of my grandfather, William Campbell, and an officer charged with entering enemy trenches to get information. Close combat resulted in my grandfather having to escape carrying his mortally wounded officer back to safety.

Next on the list was a year nine student who said the only thing he was interested in was motorbikes and Corporal Hodder and his astonishing bravery on two wheels stepped into the breach in more ways than one.

Animals then became the focus of another young man’s interest and we read about a pair of ponies driven by Gordon Blake, who charged along ‘ bomb alley’ to deliver essential ammunition to trapped soldiers about to be overwhelmed.

Finally, the amazing story of the bag pipe playing soldier, Daniel Laidlaw, leading his men into a ferocious fight left me and a young dyslexic girl incredulous.

Eager to find out more about these men who were stepping from the shadows to inspire a young generation of formerly reluctant readers, I have continued to research their astonishing acts of self sacrifice and bravery and book two is quickly taking shape.

‘World War One Warriors’ by Linda Dixon is available as a paperback or as a Kindle book on Amazon.

Posted on 6 December 2018 at 11:48 am
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