Guest Post: Incentivising reading with bookworms and golden tickets!
By Ruth Atkinson
St George’s CE School, based in Kent, have used Renaissance Accelerated Reader since 2010. Since then, the school have implemented a range of creative reading initiatives and celebrations in their library. Gillian Charlton, Librarian, outlines the school’s approach to keeping reading fun.
We think it’s really important to keep students interested in reading, not least because as our students move through KS3 they encounter several barriers to maintaining their engagement. They start thinking about their GCSE pathways, and they naturally move on to longer books, which make it more difficult to reward and encourage them along the way. The summer term of course gets very busy, so we make sure to push as hard as we can with reading incentives around this time of year, doing all we can to make reading fun and keep it interesting.
We make sure to praise students every time they get 85% or above in a quiz. If they get 100%, we’ve put up a large display board in the library. Every time they get 100% in a quiz, the student writes their name on a coloured star, sticks it to the board and rings a bell – whoever is in the library then cheers and celebrates that victory with them.
Every term we take two orange (Year 7) and two cream (Year 8) stars from the board, award those students certificates, badges, and announce their names over the tannoy. We also reward 100% quiz results with access to the ‘chillout zone’, a part of the library with cushions and beanbags where they can read.
We also use a lot of team and class based competitions. We’ll often split classes into small teams, and appoint a reluctant, or distracted, reader as the team captain, and the team will receive a point whenever a member achieves 100%. We’ve found that doing this really encourages reluctant readers, as we’re empowering them.
We’ve also placed a jar in the library for each class, and after every 100% students place a counter in their corresponding jar, and whichever class has the most counters at the end of the term wins. We’ve had a few different rewards for this – we’ve had an afternoon picnic reading in the sun, we’ve had an afternoon off to watch a film, we’ve bought a big box of sweets to share around – we’ve mixed it up to keep things fresh.
This year we’ve begun using golden tickets: there are 5 laminated golden tickets hidden in books across the library (it’s a Year 7 competition, so we chose books around their level). When a student finds one of the books, they have to agree to read it, and if they do they get 5 points for their team, and if they get above 85% in their quiz they win two jump passes for the school canteen.
They live in boxes on the library desk, which we placed some time ago, telling students that they needed to be quiet so as not to wake them up, which helps to build the illusion. We bought some real silk cocoons and dotted them around the boxes to suggest they were hatching. We then left them over the Easter break, after which they had hatched! Now every 100% quiz score is rewarded with a bookworm (they’re sweets, really).
The summer term is always difficult, with everyone getting quite weary, and the bookworms are an example of one of the ways we try to keep momentum and excitement going into it. Students will think that if reading isn’t fun then it isn’t worth doing, but if we celebrate reading in this way then it gets them interested, it gets them asking questions, and for those who struggle it motivates them to try that little bit harder.