Guest Post: Books and Boots at Millisle Primary School
By Ruth Atkinson
In September 2016, Millisle Primary School introduced a new reading programme called ‘Books and Boots’. The scheme allows pupils to build a word count by reading books and novels of their choice within Renaissance Accelerated Reader: software which allows pupils to answer questions in order to verify they have read and understood a given book.
The scheme has two elements, reading and football. As a reward for reaching their word count target, pupils involved in the scheme get to partake in a weekly football coaching session with Linfield captain, Jamie Mulgrew. Jamie is now partnering up with me for a second time, with us having previously worked together on a similar scheme in Bloomfield Primary in Bangor.
The idea behind the incentive programme is to get boys engaged in reading with a view of addressing the on-going problem in Northern Ireland of boys’ underachievement in literacy. So far, Millisle Primary is seeing some excellent results. Pupils are so keen to participate in Jamie’s sessions that they have all reached every single one of their reading targets set this year. In fact, one pupil from P6 had read over a million words within just 4 months and a further three pupils have surpassed the half a million mark within the same time frame. Our first girl to ever take part in the programme is also making her mark having read over a quarter of a million words despite joining the scheme a month later than the others.
The combination of good quality, engaging literature such as Dan Freedman’s Jamie Johnson series and the lure of high quality coaching has been the secret to the scheme’s success. The boys and girls respond very well to Jamie. As well as being articulate and enthusiastic, he is one of local football’s most decorated players. This makes him an ideal role model for our pupils who aspire to the kind of success Jamie has enjoyed with Linfield over the years