Reading soars at Smith’s Wood Academy

By Emily Meachin, Teacher of English

Since September, Smith’s Wood Academy have been working hard to integrate reading into pupil’s everyday life. Acknowledging that reading is the foundation for all learning, we want to support all pupils to develop both an imaginative and critical view of the world in which they live, through reading. To engage with this vision a number of new measures have been launched.

Continuing with our two-year success with the Accelerated Reader Programme, we have developed it a step further this year enrolling all pupils from years 7-9. This programme is reinforced every morning at guidance through the display of a PowerPoint slide highlighting the top point scores and tutor group rankings. This slide also includes key information for pupils to access their quizzes and reading progress at home. Following a review cycle pattern, all pupils have three weeks to read a book and complete a quiz, allowing us to monitor each pupil and year group’s progress manageably. With the support of tutors, engagement in quizzes continues to grow and library book loans have increased exponentially this year.

To maintain the momentum created by AR we have recently launched a reading challenge to inspire more pupils to find books they enjoy. The Recommend a Read challenge encourages pupils to write a short review of their favourite book and recommend it to others. Through the Academy Twitter page we have been Tweeting these reviews in an aim to ‘infiltrate twitter with reading’. These have been very successful and have allowed us to engage with authors and other educationalists outside of the Smith’s Wood community, a very exciting prospect for pupils. For example, a year 9’s review of “Nought and Crosses” was liked and retweeted by the author, Malorie Blackman.

In addition to our whole school approach, we have launched two intervention groups to further our work on reading. Firstly, a pupil-parent reading group. The proposal was to create, facilitate and support parents and pupils through a reading group, which acts as intervention for those pupils significantly below their reading age. Launched in November, we were very pleased to welcome 10 parents and pupils to our library and discuss how we could improve their child’s reading age and ability. Following this initial success another meeting has been scheduled for the end of January with a session focusing on reading for meaning: how to ask questions that will help your child explore what they are reading.

Secondly, to stretch and challenge those going above and beyond their reading age, a pupil-led book club was created for year 9s. Currently reading the challenging and thought-provoking, “The Book Thief”, they meet biweekly and have so far discussed the difficulties of living in Nazi Germany and the relationship between education and power, among other things.

Inspired by the success and motivation of our pupils to engage in all the reading programmes designed for them, Smith’s Wood Academy is committed to ensuring that all pupils are able to become competent and confident readers.