Litera-cy what I did there? The golden three rules to making it count. I think.

Literacy? I’ve got this. I think.

After convincing anyone within teaching distance that I would make a difference to a whole school approach to literacy, in addition to the recognition of its value within and outside of school, I am just about to embark on my first year as whole school literacy coordinator. So, big boots, you had better live up to your big talk.

I have learned my lesson to some degree at least since my PGCE- less is more. Do things that will stick, things that will be memorable and things that will spark curiosity. I mapped out oodles of ideas before settling on six key elements that I wanted to embed and gauge impact over the following year. I figure that if I blog about them, one of the following things will happen; I will receive constructive criticism from one who knows better, I will inspire someone else who can take on an idea and we can bounce through this academic year together and finally, I can see how things panned out at the end of the year when I start thinking action plans and even better ifs.

1- get EVERYONE reading.
I know what you’re thinking- start small Howard. but I beg to differ- everyone is reading, but as soon as you put the label on it they look at you in disgust and pretend they never read in their lives. Too busy/cool/combination of both. What teachers may sometimes fail to realise (male teachers, sit up straight) is how by simply reading, they are MAKING reading cool. They are setting the standards for cool in their own little microcosm and by ‘fessing up to their pretty cool pastime, they will be setting the trend that actually, it is ok to read. I have been inspired to catch those less obvious readers mid read for my ‘stuck in a book’ posters just to ensure that everyone knows just how cool reading is.

How, you say? I will get to that bit.

2- Breed your whole school reading culture from the bottom up.
I have enlisted two groups of students to drive this. Literacy ambassadors (all years) will drive reading challenges, promote events on the literacy calendar, run extra curricular activities, OWN that library waiting list and act as a point of contact for other students to get people talking all things book shaped. What do I know? I’m old and fuzzy and think Shakespeare is cool. They know what they like, and they like what they know- student voice is essential here. First up, half termly literacy meetings, a public literacy board to publicise our cool ambassadors and a Reading Relay for International Literacy Day.

3- Use your best ones to lead.
The second group of students to drive literacy will be my literacy mentors- selected from an interview process with an outlined job description and training programme that will run until the first half term, literacy mentors will work with selected students during one registration per week to share their passion for reading and develop other students’ skills with verbal literacy, book selection and discussion around reading. There will be a celebration event at the end of the year to congratulate students on all the hard work they have carried out and reward certificates for both mentors and mentees.

4- Make it public- get them talking.
Having posted my literacy boards online (I will probably post with this blog post as well, if I can work out how to sync everything on this plane that I am sat on. In. Whatever) I wanted to talk through the idea behind them. I wanted a display that was interactive and worked in conjunction with my ideas for literacy this year, so one display is focused on sharing information with students that they will need for incentive and reward. Students can see how to become a literacy mentor or ambassador, along with existing students who are involved. They can also see the word of the week which when used will have a reward attached. For any student in a lesson that then defines the word, they will also be rewarded. In addition, the board displays the literacy events for that half term, along with the incentives attached that will be promoted by the ambassador team. Finally, the half termly literacy homework for the entire school will be displayed with the due date and details of where to submit via the VLE platform. No excuses, see?

5. Take it outside of the English corridor
Literacy means so much more than reading and writing- but do students, teachers and parents realise that? Debating club, film club (please use Into Film, their resourcing is fantastic and the kids really respond to their material), poetry club, graphic novel club, magazine club, songwriting club, book club, review club, youth council. Get them talking, reading and writing in whichever mode that appeals to them but if it isn’t available, then they can’t see the option to select it. The literacy event calendar aims to do the same- world book day, poetry day, BBC news day, visiting performance poetry, poetry by heart, film festival… I also plan to run a series of parent workshops- at the moment, I would like to aim for a ‘encouraging reading’ session and a ‘be a reader’ session. This is probably the area of my plan that is at its most fuzzy stages.

6. Fifty Book Pledge? Yes yes, fifty.
Fifty books? Don’t be ridiculous. I hear you, but year after year I speak to kids that read three to five books a week regularly. An incentive that rewards speed rather than passion? No. It’s a trick- the main aim is to get them reading. The library loan record will automatically monitor figures and to qualify, students must complete a mini task about their book to show that they have read it. But, I hear you cry. Ok. Let me explain:
But they will read short books! They’re still reading.
The fast ones will win! No no. The ones that read the most are the ones most passionate about reading books that they love- they are possibly the least strategic.
Someone will cheat! I bet they read something along the way.
The same ones will win! No no. There will be a prize for most read, most read as a form, prize draw for all who hit the halfway point and the same for those who took out more than fifteen. There will also be a prize for teachers, who will state the number book that they are on upon their ‘now reading’ cards on classroom doors.

Pledge forms will determine those who have a developed, deepened love of reading and anyone else along for the ride? They are reading and talking about books, which is all I want. Anyone who would like to join us in the Fifty Book Pledge, please get in touch- it would be lovely to share profess made by other schools with students.

So. Six things. Six things that will hopefully, stick, be remembered and ignite a little bit of interest in reading. I would love to hear the things you have planned!

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