How to develop a reading culture

Skills for Life: How to Develop a Reading Culture in Schools

Discover how to develop a reading culture in schools to help build a positive community, improve vocabulary and promote learning across the curriculum.

Creating a reading culture in school is a fantastic way to improve the learning development of your pupils and build a positive community that shares an enthusiasm and love for this core skill. Reading is an essential aspect of the curriculum and transcends all subjects to support learning development in our pupils.

But with only 35% of ten-year-olds in England reporting that they like to read, a major shake-up is required.

To shed some light on this, we have explored the benefits of developing a reading culture in schools and included eight practical and proven ways to change the dynamic in your school setting.

The Benefits of Reading Cultures in Schools

Reading exercises the brain, enhances vocabulary, and improves pupils’ ability to concentrate. It enhances language skills and imagination alongside preparing students for academic success across the curriculum.

But beyond the academic and creative benefits, creating a reading culture at your school will help establish a positive community of pupils who read together, share experiences and make friends on a connection founded through a love and passion for reading.

Plus, by developing a reading culture, the shared benefits each member of the community gains should hopefully generate enthusiasm for reading beyond the classroom as something students can enjoy in their free time.

The Importance of Reading Culture in Schools

Developing a reading culture at school is crucial for school pupils, especially during the earlier stages of a young person’s development. However, ingraining this into the fabric of the curriculum isn’t easy.

Worryingly, statistics from the Department for Education (DfE) in 2022 reveal that 25% of pupils did not reach the expected reading level by age 11. 

These statistics show a decline over the past two years and represent a concern for learning and development. Therefore, an incentive to establish a reading culture and promote reading at school has never been more prevalent.

8 Ways to Promote a Reading Culture in Schools

Now we understand the benefits and the importance of reading culture in schools, let us look at the best ways to implement it:

1. Develop a Reading Culture Strategy

Developing a reading culture at schools should begin with a plan. Purely recommending reading is not enough. Ideally, you want role models, resources, and time within a dedicated space.

Establishing a strategy to promote reading in your school by allowing children to experience the value becomes your best chance to develop a reading culture.

Therefore, break your strategy down into digestible sections. One thing you could do is to look at the calendar and circle all the book and reading-themed days of the year. Appreciating these days as a community shows each child that reading is worth celebrating.

Your reading culture needs to be a positive experience otherwise the kids may not want to return. That means having enough books to go around with infectious individuals in your team who can drive their passion for reading.

2. Establish a Book Club

When building your reading culture strategy, one of the first aspects is to form a dedicated book club. The Reading Framework recommends dedicating 20 minutes per week to this in Primary school, which should be seen as ‘sacrosanct’. This should be an opportunity for children and adults to talk about books, characters, similarities and differences to other texts and recommendations to be made. This should be an enjoyable time, where pleasure in reading is enhanced.

One of the best times for reading is in the morning. So, doing it at the start of the day can incentivise the children to engage when energy levels are high.

3. Find the Right Role Models

Children respond to influential teachers they look up to and feel inspired by. Therefore, choose the ideal teachers to host your reading clubs and spearhead your reading culture. If the children are more likely to respond positively to the teacher in charge, the better chances of your reading culture bearing fruit.

Beyond teachers, can your school collaborate with local novelists, poets or influencers that the children can engage with in person? They can come to your school and inspire the children to read by sharing their stories.

4. Cover All Subjects

Not all reading needs to revolve around the same traditional subject areas.

By covering as many subject areas, including social issues outside of school, you show children that reading and writing have a place in all aspects of life. Exposing children to these different sub-sections will also help them become more well-rounded as individuals and open to new ideas.

5. Incorporate Technology

Technology is a great way of making reading materials more accessible. Children are becoming more familiar with technology than adults, so audiobooks, Kindles and eBooks can provide a gateway to reading more.

6. Let Students Recommend Books

Once your reading culture is in full flow, it is time to let the children take the lead and feel more involved. Therefore, having students recommend books to each other with a presentation enables them to share what they enjoyed reading in a community that values and respects their opinions.

In recommending books to each other, the children learn that books are not just for reading but for stimulating conversation.

Improve Your Reading Culture with Education Specialists

At SFE, we are an award-winning, charity-led organisation that endeavours to bring learning to life at schools and educational centres.

We understand reading is a vital aspect of the curriculum and that the best way to support reading and overall learning is to develop a positive reading culture for pupils.

Our team provide quality resources, courses and training, including guidance on the latest Reading Framework. For more information, get in touch today.

About the Author

Emma Mudge - Adviser, Services For Education

Emma Mudge has over 20 years of experience working in primary education. Throughout this time, she has become a leader in a wide variety of areas throughout the school including Assessment, Teaching and Learning, Curriculum Management and Lead DSL, to name but a few. As Deputy Head Teacher and Acting Head Teacher, she has been at the forefront of school leadership and improvement.

During her role as English leader, she successfully introduced new approaches which significantly raised attainment. This led her to be approached to support other English coordinators across Birmingham, make presentations to school leaders and become a member of a small group of specialist teachers and leaders, tasked with improving the reading attainment in a number of schools across the city.

Emma now works as the Educational Adviser for English at Services for Education, sharing her experience and knowledge of working in primary schools to continually promote and improve the standard of teaching and learning in English, and in school improvement.

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