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Creating a Reading for Pleasure Community

Children who read for fun are more likely to be happy and successful in life. (The Reading Agency, 2023)

Fostering a culture of reading for pleasure within our school communities goes far beyond encouraging children to simply choose a book and read. While this is a valuable first step, the impact of cultivating enthusiastic readers who choose to read out of genuine interest, rather than obligation, extends well beyond the act of reading itself. It is likely to enhance academic performance, boost overall wellbeing and improve life outcomes.

Despite the compelling evidence of its benefits, the enjoyment of reading has plummeted to its lowest level since the National Literacy Trust first investigated in 2005: “Just 2 in 5 (43.4%) children and young people aged 8 to 18 said they enjoyed reading in their free time in 2023,” with a “26% decrease in the number of children and young people aged 8 to 18 who read daily in their free time since 2005.” This decline underscores the urgent need for establishing communities centred around reading for pleasure.

While the value of nurturing a lively and flourishing reading-for-pleasure community is clear, the process of creating one can feel daunting. Obstacles such as inadequate funding, heavy workloads, reading stigmas, and the battle against digital distractions can seem insurmountable. If only coaxing a hesitant reader to embrace reading for pleasure were as straightforward as telling them to do it! Setting aside the notion of a magical quick fix, true transformation lies in the collective strength of collaboration, along with the decision to prioritise reading, putting it at the heart of the school community. Reading ignites curiosity, fosters knowledge, hones language skills, and nurtures a lifelong love of learning — a virtuous cycle of growth that cultivates an ever-deepening passion for reading. With a decline in recreational reading, it is “essential that schools plan systematically to nurture pupils’ desire to read. It cannot be left to chance.” The Reading Framework (July 2023)

In answering the questions below, our goal is to offer clarity, inspiration and practical ideas for establishing a reading-for-pleasure community in your school…

  • What is reading for pleasure?

At school, reading for pleasure involves children freely and joyfully selecting books they want to read. It's not about being instructed or obligated to read academically. It is, “Reading we do of our own free will, anticipating the satisfaction we will get from the act of reading.” National Literacy Trust (UK) For reading for pleasure to thrive, children must have the autonomy to choose their own books, be provided with time and engaging environments for independent reading and participate in discussions about books and reading.

As well as creating positive reading environments and encouraging a supportive and enthusiastic attitude towards reading from an early age, it’s vital that pupils are offered a “feast of books…they might choose to read over and over again.” The Reading Framework (July 2023)

Finding time to research the best reading for pleasure books isn’t always easy, so our experts do the work for you, with hand-picked collections that have huge pupil appeal: Browse our Reading for Pleasure collections HERE They’re also fitted with easy-clean protective jackets free of charge.

  • What does a reading-for-pleasure community look like?

In a reading-for-pleasure community, individuals of all ages are enthusiastic about reading for enjoyment rather than solely for academic purposes. It's a place where books are readily available, diverse reading materials are celebrated, and reading is integrated into various aspects of daily life. Individuals share their love of reading through discussions, book clubs, and literary events. There's a supportive environment where reading is valued, and efforts are made to remove barriers to access and encourage everyone to participate in the joy of reading. To achieve the greatest success, all members of the school community will contribute to and benefit from this collective goal, and it’s important that everyone feels part of this journey.

Here are some practical ideas to help build momentum for reading for pleasure throughout the school, but before you start, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to do everything all at once! Get others on board and start by selecting one or two things to try or adapt, introducing new initiatives gradually:

  • Begin each day with ‘Morning Book Chat’. Spend the first ten minutes of every day discussing the books the children have read the night before.
  • Keep a ‘Love Books Box’ in each classroom, containing a small, regularly refreshed, selection of books from the main library.
  • Hold ‘Open Library Sessions’ at the end of each half term, inviting staff to browse the bookshelves and borrow books to read over the school holiday. As well as being a relaxing activity for the adults and expanding their repertoires of children’s literature, these books might then become recommendations for their class the following term. Keep libraries well stocked with the latest and best books for each year group with our Reading for Pleasure collections, for Reception to Year 6.
  • Encourage children to leave ‘Post-It Note Reviews’, where they write on a sticky note how many marks they would give that book out of ten, along with one or two words to describe the book or their experience of reading it and then stick their review inside the front cover for the next person to view.
  • Build ‘Transition Links’. Towards the end of the academic year, find out what the reading lists are for next year and introduce one or two of these books to the class. If possible, visit the next class for a story session or invite next year’s teacher in for a reading event or to share their current favourite read. Send four or five of the class’s favourite books up to the next class with them to read and share at the beginning of the year. Reception staff may choose to visit preschools in the summer term to read stories or invite their prospective pupils into school for a Bedtime Stories session in PJs, for example. Year 6 staff might also arrange or attend a Year 7 reading event.
  • Set up fun ‘Holiday Reading Challenges’. You will find a range of engaging reading activities and challenges, including bookmarks, reading trackers and book review templates, in our FREE Downloads.
  • Introduce ‘Poem of the Day’, where students sign up to recite poems individually or in small groups. This could initially be modelled by school staff to get it up and running and then become a short daily activity, providing an opportunity to raise the profile of poetry and broaden knowledge of poets, alongside the chance to perform and discuss poetry in a fun and pleasurable way.
  • Invite parents / carers to sign up to become a ‘Mystery Book’ reader. Send home a high-quality book, notebook and instructions, (in an opaque folder), inviting the adults to read the book and write a short comment about it in the exercise book, in secret! These books are revealed to the children at the end of the school year and added to the school library. Similarly, this idea could be carried out by the children in the class.
  • Make space for a ‘Pupils Recommendations Shelf’ or ‘Your Teacher is Reading…’ in each classroom.
  • Keep a class ‘Reading Scrapbook’, where students can contribute reflections and summaries, creating a shared record of the class’s literary journey. This scrapbook could be left in the class library for the next class to browse and add to, or follow the children to the year above to be shared with their next teacher.
  • Start a ‘Reading Buddies’ programme, where Y5 / Y6 children spend time reading to / with pupils in Reception / Y1.
  • If you do have budget that can be allocated to reading, why not organise an author / illustrator / poet event (and invite parents in too!) Hosting an author event is not only educationally enriching, but also a lot of fun and can create memorable experiences that last a lifetime. Virtual author visits can be an economical way of hosting visits or you can share costs with another local school. Visit Authors Aloud, Authors Abroad or speak to your local bookshop to find an author, poet or illustrator.
  • How to be a reading role model?

If you demonstrate a passion for reading and serve as an inspirational figure to encourage and motivate others to develop their reading habits, you are a reading role model. Within schools, this role model might be a teacher, librarian, parent, or even a fellow student who actively engages in reading and shares their enthusiasm with others. They may organise reading-related activities, recommend books, participate in book clubs, or simply serve as a positive example by consistently incorporating reading into their daily routine. The aim of a reading role model is to promote a culture of reading and inspire others to embrace reading for pleasure.

Create a culture where reading is not just a necessity but a thrilling adventure by demonstrating your own love for reading. Spend time exploring books from the school/class library, enabling you to suggest titles tailored to each child's preferences and needs. When a book is carefully chosen for a child based on their interests, it's more likely to ignite their enthusiasm for reading.

Incorporate read-aloud sessions into your daily routine. Whether it's during structured story time or taking advantage of brief moments before lunch or between lessons, make reading aloud a regular habit.

As influencers and role models, school staff possess the power to lay strong foundations for a lifelong love of reading and to broaden students' literary tastes. Engage in conversations with pupils about their interests and reading habits as part of your everyday interactions.

  • How do you get children to want to read?

Children will want to read when they perceive reading as an exciting adventure rather than a chore. Engage and captivate young readers by sharing books infused with humour, suspense and relatable characters, transforming books into gateways to thrilling new worlds. Schools dedicated to fostering a reading culture recognise that motivating children should stem from curiosity, recommendations, and connection with characters, rather than solely pursuing advancement or rewards. While occasional incentives like book vouchers can be helpful, relying on external rewards may offer only temporary motivation. “Schools that are determined to support all pupils to develop the habit of reading recognise intrinsic motivation is more closely associated with reading achievement than extrinsic motivation (reading for recognition, reward or to please others).” (The Reading Framework, July 2023) Teachers should also carefully balance comprehension assessment with activities that preserve the joy of reading and sustain motivation.
It's important to guide children towards books that suit their reading abilities, avoiding those that are either too challenging or too easy, which can lead to disengagement. However, it's also vital to appreciate the joy experienced by able readers choosing short reads or the sense of achievement felt by children tackling challenging texts. Maintaining a diverse library is essential, as well as engaging in meaningful conversations with students to understand their reading preferences, strengths, and barriers, thus guiding them towards books that instil a genuine love for reading. Promoting increased reading without overly limiting choice is essential to nurture a genuine passion for reading and alleviate potential peer pressure concerns.

  • What are the best books for promoting reading for pleasure?

Engaging, high-quality books that reflect the school community is crucial. Children will not pick up a book at all, let alone read it, if they are presented with tatty, dated books that don’t interest them. Research conducted by the National Literacy Trust (2018) found that “the main reason for not using the library was that it doesn’t have interesting reading materials.”

A good place to start when revitalising your bookshelves is to look at your current stock. “Every book must be worth reading or help pupils to put in the reading miles. Books that are unlikely to achieve either of these aims should be discarded.” The Reading Framework (July 2023) By completing an audit of your current stock and weeding out books that don’t meet these criteria, you give space for your high-quality books to shine, creating a safe, inviting space filled with enticing literary treats. It’s better to have fewer high-quality books on the shelves than hundreds of books that may send the wrong message. Download our comprehensive action plan: ‘School Leaders Supporting Libraries’ to get the ball rolling!

“Pupils must be offered a feast of books: easy reads, books about how things work, graphic novels, joke books, irreverent books, books about animals – anything that might hook them into reading – as well as the more challenging books they will listen to in story times and study in English lessons. For some pupils, the hook into reading may be nonfiction, for example, a book on climate change recommended by a science teacher.  Importantly, they need to be offered books they might choose to read over and over again.” The Reading Framework (July 2023)

Investing in high-quality literature can be time-consuming and costly. Pandora Books has an experienced team that reads and reviews hundreds of new books every year, searching for the latest high-quality reads, so only the best of the best make it into our book collections. They do this work, so you don’t have to! Instead, use the time you’ve saved to read and enjoy the books in these outstanding collections. Discover more about What makes a high-quality text? or browse our Reading for Pleasure collections to start cultivating your library today! Alongside discounted RRPs and free plastic book jackets, we offer everything from smaller collections suitable for filling gaps in specific year groups to entire school library collections, accommodating every budget and requirement.

  • Where can you find diverse and inclusive books?

Every young reader deserves access to a diverse array of captivating books featuring characters and narratives that resonate with and captivate them. “Emotional engagement is the tipping point between leaping into the reading life or remaining in a childhood bog where reading is endured only as a means to other ends.” (Maryanne Wolfe, 2008) Ensuring children feel represented and included in the books they read not only fosters positive attitudes towards books and reading but also promotes the value of diverse voices and experiences, different to their own.

Therefore, it is important to ensure primary school library books and reading experiences offered to children are as diverse and inclusive as possible. These Diversity & Inclusion collections of high-quality books recommended by Pandora Books, celebrate ethnic diversity, diverse families, and refugees and contain titles that feature characters living with a disability. The books are age-appropriate and offer children the chance to see different perspectives, validate their own lived experiences and embrace the similarities and differences of the lives of others and include the work of a variety of diverse authors and illustrators.

  • How can you encourage children to prioritise books over screens?

Print first reading lays a strong foundation for literacy development by providing a structured and immersive reading experience that fosters comprehension, concentration, and critical thinking skills. However, the rise of digital technology cannot be ignored and, for some, eBooks can be a ‘way in’ to reading and developing reading for pleasure. Instead of battling against screen use, advocate for digital platforms as part of a wide and blended reading experience. Digital reading might include watching TV with the subtitles on, reading a book of the film, listening to audiobooks or opting for eBooks — each of these options promotes reading and has the potential to kindle a lifelong passion for literature in all its forms.

  • How do you get everyone on board?

Engagement is sparked by fostering a shared enthusiasm for reading through inclusive initiatives and collaboration — this means creating opportunities for meaningful discussions and planning activities related to reading. To ensure this momentum of change is not lost and to enhance impact and outcomes, it's important to adopt a strategic approach and plan activities that promote reading, anchored in core strategies and the overarching vision of the entire school. A transformative starting point can be prioritising a dynamic school library within your school development plan. Access Pandora Books’ complimentary PowerPoint and action plan, titled ‘School Leaders Supporting Libraries,’ to cultivate a forward-looking vision for your library's future. This resource includes a presentation to garner support from senior leaders and staff, along with a comprehensive action plan to kickstart progress. Within it, you'll discover inspiration, support, and innovative ideas to steer your library's transformation, facilitating meaningful engagement with key stakeholders such as staff, students, parents, and the broader community to gather invaluable perceptions and feedback, illuminating the library's untapped potential.

School librarians play a pivotal role in the success of a thriving library and in fostering a culture of reading for pleasure. However, their role is sadly often seen as a luxury that many schools cannot afford. Alternative solutions might include sharing a librarian among an academy chain of schools, amending the role of a teaching assistant, or utilising the support of parent volunteers or community members with library expertise. Some schools utilise pupil premium spending to fund a librarian, particularly when their duties involve working directly with pupils and families most in need.

  • Does the reading-for-pleasure community expand beyond school?

Partnering with local institutions such as libraries, bookstores, community centres and English Hubs can help to foster a positive reading culture within the community. Engaging the entire school staff, children’s families, parent-teacher associations and the local community in educational activities, fundraising, and reading engagement can also boost reading enjoyment. For example, arrange a visit to the local library or invite a member of the local library service into school to give a talk. Send information home to parents about joining the library, reassure them about potential barriers such as late fees, and inform them about currently running events. Alternatively, signpost families to helpful websites, such as Book Trust and National Literacy Trust, which provide tips for reluctant readers, activities to do with your child at home, a book finder and tips for reading with your child.

“Nearly three times as many children and young people who perceived their reading environment to be supportive said they enjoyed reading compared with those who perceived it to be less supportive (63.9% vs. 25.4%), while twice as many read daily in their free time (41.7% vs. 17.7%)” (National Literacy Trust, September 2023)

Read our blog about Encouraging Parental Engagement with Reading at Home for more top tips and ideas, including a free downloadable leaflet for parents and carers to give them ideas and inspiration on how to get started or improve their experiences of sharing books at home. Download our free PDF leaflet, 5 Fun Ideas for Family Reading at Home, which can be printed and sent home in book bags or attached to emails and sent to parents directly. Or download our free PowerPoint presentation, Sharing Books at Home, to show to parents/carers of students from Reception to Year 6. This inspiring, ten-minute, parent-friendly presentation can easily be delivered by school librarians, teachers or teaching assistants to help build bonds as a community of readers. Use this PowerPoint to raise the profile of reading, provide realistic, practical tips for sharing books at home, and embed a collective reading-for-pleasure culture within your school community.

  • Who has already created a successful reading-for-pleasure community?

Learn about the transformative power of promoting reading for pleasure in Jon Biddle's inspiring case study, "Reading for Pleasure at Moorlands Primary Academy," available as part of our complimentary download: "School Leaders Supporting Libraries." Here's a brief excerpt to set the scene: “A few years ago, Moorlands was in quite a vulnerable position. There had been a couple of disappointing Ofsted inspections, a few years of underwhelming SATS results and a succession of interim headteachers. We realised that the staff, pupils and local community needed something to rally round in order to give the school a focus and we agreed that it was going to be Reading for Pleasure. After having explored the research, we understood the impact it could have, not just on the school’s data but, far more importantly, on the life chances of the children we teach.” Click HERE to access the complete report, track Jon’s journey, and uncover the conclusion to this compelling story!

Sharing success stories in promoting reading for pleasure fosters a sense of community and cultivates a positive environment where individuals feel appreciated, and teamwork and collective accomplishments are valued. A supportive reading culture can inspire children to experiment with new approaches and perhaps engage in reading activities they haven’t previously explored. Examples of school initiatives that could lead to success stories include implementing a reading buddies programme pairing older students with younger ones, organising author visits, forming book clubs, designing reading nooks, hosting family reading events, or conducting assemblies to celebrate reading achievements.

  • Where can I find resources & support?

There are many charities and organisations dedicated to promoting literacy and reading for pleasure. The examples listed below offer invaluable resources, tools and guidance to create a vibrant reading culture in your school.

Pandora Books: educational book supplier, offering expertly curated book collections, Knowledge Hub articles and free downloadable reading and library resources.

The Open University: free course — Developing Reading for Pleasure: engaging young readers

National Literacy Trust: provides research, reading programmes for children and their families, partnerships with schools and a range of resources and support for educators.

Book Trust: provides a range of resources and support dedicated to get children reading.

The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education: CLPE provides resources and support for schools and libraries to encourage and promote literacy learning.

The Reading Agency: promotes the benefits of reading and offers a range of resources for schools and libraries.

The School Library Association: for advice, guidance and resources in developing your school library.

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals: Joining CILIP can provide access to valuable resources, training, and networking opportunities for primary school libraries.

English Hubs: Funded by the DfE, the 34 English Hubs were selected for their expertise in teaching reading and to support schools in their surrounding area. Hubs promote a love of reading and help schools provide excellent teaching in phonics and early language. They focus on supporting the slowest progress children in Reception and Year 1 and ensure every child is successful, regardless of background, needs or abilities.

Please also see our blogs:

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Creating a Reading for Pleasure Community

Fostering a culture of reading for pleasure within our school communities goes far beyond encouraging children to simply choose a book and read…

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