Guest Blog #1: Judy Grevett, Headteacher, River Beach Primary School
By Ruth Atkinson
Before I focus on the most recent parts of our reading journey at River Beach, I just want to spend a few moments ‘setting the scene’, so to speak. The most pivotal part would be when we identified reading as a specific area in which we needed to improve. We promptly sprang into action as a team; exploring various ways of making reading more fun and exciting for the children (as well as for us adults).
We allocated budget for each class to develop a book corner which saw some really creative ideas come to fruition, such as slippers and beanbags! This worked quite successfully, but we didn’t feel that the ‘culture’ was really embedded. So we looked at what else could be introduced to build on the positivity we were starting to see… which strangely enough led us to a local garden centre and the bargain purchase of wooden Wendy houses!
There was method in our madness however; as the children decorated the houses and we created a ‘reading village’ – which again, proved an effective activity in its own right. But something still niggled us. We had two exciting ways in which the children could engage with reading – but it felt like something was still missing.
On we continued; working with the PTA and school council to explore and innovate wherever we could. Father Christmas gave books away as gifts and different guided reading approaches were piloted. All of these added another level of positivity to our reading culture, but we still couldn’t put our finger on what was missing.
And then I attended a Headteachers’ meeting at a local secondary school…
A scheme called ‘Accelerated Reader’ was being used and funnily enough, it was actually a former group of pupils of mine who couldn’t wait to tell me about it (who incidentally I remembered as being some of the most reluctant readers)! Naturally this sparked my curiosity and after moving rapidly through the research and staff engagement process – then in January this year we first introduced AR to Year 6. We very quickly realised that we had finally found what had been missing. AR gave us a tool to literally hold the rest of our reading initiatives together and the result has been phenomenal. Fast forward to April 2016 and all years except the reception class are now fully engaged with AR – and we underwent a successful Ofsted inspection where we have been specifically credited for reading:
“The changes you and the staff have introduced to the teaching of reading are making a real difference.”
Now the scheme alone does not create the positive reading culture. It is how we are using it – alongside the many other reading activities that has made the real difference for us. We like to describe it as the ‘glue’ that pulls everything together.
But our story doesn’t end here. I passionately believe in encouraging a lifelong love for reading, and AR is proving an invaluable tool that supports us as a school in giving children a positive start to their own reading journey. In my next guest blog, I’ll be lifting the lid on what daily life is like at River Beach and how reading has become a badge of honour – for the adults and the children!