Rachel Coverdale is an inspiring children’s author who is inspiring children all over the country to read. Her love of books is infections as we are able to observe with her current Novel ‘ The Boy Who Couldn’t. This Charming book is about two boys with very opposite personalities coming together – such an inspirational story.
You can read more about Rachel Coverdale on www.rachelcoverdale.com
Rachel’s Book is now available for purchase on Amazon “The Boy Who Couldn’t”
The library in the Secondary School I work in, is an accidental source of much of my research in to reading habits. I have a constant stream of students who want to read everything that was ever written and a constant stream of students who are forced in by their Literacy teacher to choose a book against their will. How can there be such a divide from students the same age as each other, living in the same area as each other and attending the same school?
At the moment, I have a small group of reluctant readers who I work with twice a week. As well as being reluctant readers, they are weak readers. This combination is common and unsurprising. Nobody likes hard work. Recently, I changed tack with them and I have been reading them stories. These have been the best lessons with them this year. They’ve loved listening to the stories and accepted the little story related tasks they do afterwards.
It took a while, but I had a sudden epiphany: children don’t suddenly stop enjoying stories – they just stop enjoying reading. That’s two completely separate issues. When they were babies, their parents read to them and they loved it. Well done parents, you inspired a love of stories. When they started Primary school, they learnt to read and although it was hard and the learning curve was steep, they only had to read a few short sentences per page and there were beautiful illustrations that not only gave them a clue to the words, but actually added to the story. Move on a few years, they’re about eight or nine now – they’re faced with 20,000+ words and very few pictures. Suddenly the hard work isn’t being rewarded. There are no visual clues and less praise. Now it’s not fun anymore. Now it’s a chore. For many, that’s where the reading learning curve comes to an abrupt stop.
Fortunately, in our library, we have bought lots of picture books and chapter books for older students. We also have an amazing literacy intervention teacher who does 1:1 with some of the hardest to reach children, during tutor time. Honestly, it’s amazing to listen to her conversations with the reluctant child she brings in. By the third visit, the student is visibly excited choosing their next book. What has changed? Our Literacy Intervention Teacher is one of those people who constantly brims over with enthusiasm which is infectious. During the 1:1 she heaps praise, upon praise on the student. She’s only young, so don’t tell her I said this, but she’s like a grandma the way she dotes on them and the students absolutely adore her. We only have one Ms C. We need at least a hundred more.
So I sat and thought about it. What about, asking some Teaching Assistants to help out? What about asking non-teaching staff to help? We still don’t have anywhere near enough. And then I realised – we already have an adult for every single student – it’s their parent/carer. Many parents and carers are under the misconception that once their child learns to read, they don’t need to read them bedtime stories anymore. But they’re wrong. The children do still need their bedtime stories. And they still need to read out loud to a doting parent. Our parents aren’t lazy – they just don’t know. We need to educate them. And if they’re too busy, that’s when the grandparents can step in, or the eccentric aunty (everyone has one of those stored somewhere for just such occasions!)
While the child makes the difficult transition from a weak reader to a competent reader, we need to make the experience as pleasurable as possible:
- Let them cuddle up with a pet or cuddly toy.
- Give them a hot chocolate or a cookie.
- Sit with them and read your own book, or even better, one of their books.
- Chat about the books.
- Keep to a routine so they know where and when they will be reading.
- Ask them what they think is going to happen next – this is the best way for a child to become engaged in the story as they find out whether they’re right or whether the author has a clever twist.
- Make the room tidy and cosy with no background noises to distract them.
Always remember; a child is never too old to be read to. You can still read to them even when they’ve left school. Hey you can even phone them at uni’ and read to them if you want! We never grow too old for stories. Even the elderly in the nursing homes love volunteers coming in and reading to them. We just need to get the message out, so please shout it from the roof tops, shout it from the streets – I’ll even let you shout it in the library! Keep reading with your children … forever!