Popular reading challenge to be tried out in early secondary years

Written by: Sam Phipps | Published:
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Six secondaries in Scotland are piloting a scheme to encourage literacy and a love of reading in young people after its introduction at primary level proved highly popular.

The First Minister’s Reading Challenge will feature in the schools up to S3, with the aim of keeping pupils engaged at a time when reading for pleasure often drops off.

Earlier this year the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, announced the scheme would be expanded to all primary children, following a year’s trial from P4 to P7 that drew more than three quarters of state primary schools.

“I am incredibly proud of the success the First Minister’s Reading Challenge has had in nurturing a love of reading for pleasure among Scotland’s young people, which is why this expansion to secondary schools is so exciting,” Ms Sturgeon said on a visit to one of the pilot schools, St Andrew’s and St Bride’s High, East Kilbride.

“I am determined to ensure we continue to promote reading as one of life’s greatest pleasures – and that young people reap the benefits of the resulting educational attainment that can be achieved.”

Michael Wilkie, literacy coordinator at St Andrew’s and St Bride’s High, said Scottish Book Trust, which is overseeing the scheme, wanted to give schools a free rein on how to approach it rather than “dictate from on high”.

“I know from my own classroom that children who read a lot are the best learners. It’s incredibly important to develop that habit and a lot of it stems from providing the right book for the right person, so we have created a wonderful library – it includes high-quality books from graphic novels to classics of all kinds.”

Not only will the school be making more out of annual events such as World Book Day and Book Week Scotland, but it also plans to start workshops for parents that will help unlock more reading at home.

“There is often a fear of reading, particularly among parents whose own literacy may not be the strongest, so if we make that intervention and involve them directly it could be extremely effective,” Mr Wilkie said.

Another aspect will be to promote reading across other areas of the curriculum so that it is not just associated with the English department, he added. The school already starts each day with a 10-minute reading session after registration.

Marc Lambert, CEO at Scottish Book Trust, said the expansion of the First Minister’s Reading Challenge built on the huge success of its first year: “The secondary school pilot will focus on a key age group, among whom reading for pleasure can tail off due to the pressures on time that come with high school.

“The Reading Challenge will focus attention on this, giving pupils more opportunities to share and celebrate what they love reading, delve deeper into writing and discover different ways to enjoy books.”

Several schools volunteered to take part in the secondary expansion, and the six were chosen from these.
In the challenge’s first year, schools ordered Reading Passports that pupils used to log their reading journeys; brought authors to their classrooms through fully funded visits; registered their classes to take part in the challenges and made use of book suggestions, learning resources and ideas to encourage young people to develop a love of reading, with prizes being awarded for the most innovative submissions.


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