Stage 1: Read Anything Initiative – Learners were given a clock or questionnaire to complete, stating what they believed they read on a daily basis. They initially needed assistance with this as they believed that when we spoke about reading, we were focusing purely on novels. Once we discussed all reading, such as shampoo bottles, timetables, and so on, the learners became more engaged. This backed up the idea that students only associated novels and fiction with reading.
Once learners had completed the questionnaire or clock a group discussion arose around how learners chose what they were going to read and what they liked/disliked.
From this, we found:
• the majority of learners read what is needed for studies, not for fun;
• learners are more likely to read something that had been recommended by a peer;
• learners wanted to read something that will immediately engage them and that has a clear purpose.
The learners were then put in to Thinking Pairs (Kline, 1999) at the beginning of each session where they were asked to summarise what they have enjoyed reading in one uninterrupted minute. After the learners had shared their experiences this was then brought into a whole class discussion. Some of the questions raised from these discussions were:
• What was the last thing that the learners had enjoyed reading?
• How long ago was this?
• Why do they no longer read for ‘pleasure’?
It became clear, from this, that most learners stopped reading for pleasure aged 11, when it was no longer compulsory to read at school.
Following this, learners were tasked to read anything of their choice (e.g. social media or a bus timetable, and progressing on to areas currently less familiar e.g. newspapers, book from the resource centre etc, differentiated by individual learners).
Stage 2: Literature Swap: Learners (who have progressed from Stage 1 and have been encouraged to identify a genre they like to read from the variation of activity from the Read Anything Initiative) brought their texts in to share with others. This was also shared on a Padlet. Again, they were put into thinking pairs where they summarised, in one minute, why their partner should read it, using persuasive techniques they had been working on within their GCSE and Functional Skills lessons. This could be a literary work, an article or even a useful document linked to their vocational subject – whatever they wanted to share.
The learners were also given time to read for ten minutes at the start of the session. Some read in the library and others in the classroom environment, depending on what was more suitable for that group of learners: for example, Foundation stage completed reading or were read to in the classroom, Level 2 / Level 3 BTEC learners were more engaged when reading in the Learning Resource Centre independently.
During this stage there was a learner who was reluctant to carry on reading. After discussions it became clear that he did not enjoy the book he was reading yet he thought he had to continue. This was rectified by us going to the LRC and choosing a different book. Once this was completed the learner was re-engaged and enjoyed the book that he was reading. The learner thought they were expected to complete all books and were not familiar with the practice when reading for pleasure of leaving a book and choosing another.
Another teacher went down a different path and took the learners to a local primary school. Here learners were actively involved with reading with younger pupils. The feedback here was that the learners were amazed at how passionate the younger learners were about reading and this reignited their own passion.
Stage 3: Writing Competitions: Learners contributed to writing competitions using a sample text for inspiration. They were taught how to complete ‘shadow writing’. Students were to create some writing using what they have read to help them with ideas, structure, vocabulary and punctuation. The connection between the development of their reading skills and increased exposure to literature was highlighted by their tutors as they created the competition entries (150 words creative writing).
The winner from the competitions was chosen by vocational tutors and then published in the local newspaper (Figure 7a-1). This demonstrated to the learners how, through reading more, they were able to have a voice in their local paper. All other learners’ writing will be published in a high-quality booklet at the end of the year.