Guest Blog #2: Judy Grevett, Headteacher, River Beach Primary School
By Ruth Atkinson
Picking up where I left off in Part #1, it’s time to lift the lid on what daily life is like here at River Beach, now we are firmly in the ‘AR’ era.
As I explained previously, having AR alone has not created our positive reading culture. It is how we are using it that has made the real difference – which is what I want to focus on here.
Having first introduced AR back in January to Year 6, we’ve spent the last six months developing our use of the system with the children, and the adults. We made a conscious decision to open up the use of AR to adults in the school as we believed that a true reading culture should be fully inclusive rather than restricted to just the children. But what does this mean in practice?
Well for starters, all of the adults who wanted to participate have their own AR account, which means whenever they read a book – they take a quiz. Just like the children!
As part of the roll-out of AR, we discussed rewards and recognition with the school council, who decided that lanyards with reading badges would be a good way of sharing how many words each child had read. Again, all of the ‘AR’ adults have adopted this same practice and even gone so far to display posters on their classroom doors to share the name of the book they are reading at the time.
Now, you might be thinking ‘this all sounds very lovely, but where’s the value?’ Which you could be forgiven for! The reality is that the real value comes from the enthusiasm which this approach has engendered throughout the whole school. It has created a buzz around reading which sees children talking to each other about the books they have read – and desperately wanting to share this excitement. Reading has become the strongest theme that everyone in school has in common. Not a day goes by now where a child doesn’t ask me about what I am reading – and even the most reluctant readers make a special trip to my office to tell me when they have hit a major word milestone.
The millionaire’s club fast became a badge of honour that everyone is desperate to achieve – much quicker than we had anticipated! We originally set the millionaire reward as a Kindle and have been pleasantly surprised that a lot of the children reached the milestone quicker than expected… but by this point their motivation is not for the reward, it is now genuinely for the love of books and the pride they feel at the end of a quiz.
Possibly the best illustration of the positive policy we have in place around reading is the extended library access. We started opening the library at 8am every day and this has proved so popular that we are going to continue to fund this next academic year. There are lots more little anecdotes that I would love to share with you and I would be more than happy to talk to anyone who is finding it hard to develop a positive reading culture. In the meantime, there’s one piece of advice that I will leave with you…when including adults in the programme, approach with caution – the children might not be competitive but the adults take AR and ‘words read’ extremely seriously. You have been warned!