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Reading:  It’s What We Do

“Ask any teacher and they will tell you: a reading child is, quite simply, a successful child” – Alan Gibbons, children’s author and educational consultant.

At Pembroke we recognise that reading is critical to accessing the curriculum, for life chances, for social engagement and for self-esteem. All students in Years 7 and 8 have a timetabled ‘Reading’ lesson in a dedicated reading room with a trained Reading Leader.  The Reading Leader promotes reading across all aspects of the Academy, collaborating with staff to develop reading in their subjects and providing opportunities for all students to engage with reading for pleasure.   

The core aims of the Reading curriculum are:

  • To promote and develop empathy and emotional intelligence in all learners
  • To promote and develop critical thinking in all learners
  • To promote and develop oracy and listening skills in all learners
  • To promote reading as a vehicle for good mental health in all learners
  • To increase general knowledge and promote cross-curricular links and thinking
  • To develop excellent comprehension skills in all learners
  • To increase breadth of vocabulary in all learners
  • To provide the space, time and resources to promote and encourage Reading for Pleasure in all

To achieve these aims the reading curriculum will:

  1. Choose a range of high quality literature of all genres to expose students to a range of experiences and knowledge beyond their own world, and to challenging and interesting vocabulary.  This will include poetry, short stories, extracts from longer stories and novels, and non-fiction.
  2. Read TO the students to allow access to material at a higher and broader level than that they would choose to read to themselves and modelling excellent reading aloud skills.
  3. Read slowly.  We make space and time for words, characters and ideas. This methodology is developed from the practices and core principles of the Shared Reading model of The Reader Organisation.
  4. Allow opportunity for re-reading of texts studied to promote the idea that understanding of a text is not arrived at on first reading.
  5. Allow students to do the “re-reading” to allow them to practise reading out loud in a small group and with the confidence gained from having heard the text read out loud first.
  6. The Reading Leader will show interest and curiosity towards texts selected and set example that other interpretations can be valid:  The Reading Leader does not know everything and is open to other valid interpretations (comprehension) and to all personal responses. 
  7. Select texts that allow for a range of responses, eg some will lend themselves better to developing comprehension skills, some to analytical skills, some to widening general knowledge and vocabulary, some to promoting reading as a tool for relaxation and pleasure and some to accessing personal/emotional responses and developing emotional intelligence.
  8. The Reading Leader will promote development of social and emotional intelligence by assuring learners that their personal response to a text or a discussion prompted by a text is valid and reminding other learners to respect others’ experiences, backgrounds and opinions (and occasional disclosures of personal feelings/experiences).
  9. Enable learners to practise and improve their discussion and conversational skills in a more natural environment than a full and formal class setting.  Where the text and situation warrants it, a more academic debate style will also be encouraged and modelled.
  10. The choice of text will take account of both current affairs and cross-curricular links to ensure students are exposed to important themes, topics and knowledge.  There will be close liaison in particular with the HOD English to ensure spaced exposure to texts/types/authors 
  11. Promote extended and interesting vocabulary in different ways: through ambitious choice of text, through use of synonyms in natural conversation, through discussion of etymology and examples of other words with same roots/prefixes/affixes, through verbal use of recall of vocabulary in previous sessions or of prior knowledge in other subjects.  
  12. Questioning of learners will be modelled on techniques promoted by Aidan Chambers in “Tell Me,” an approach to questioning which relies on non-confrontational methods aimed at getting the best out of all students, including quieter students.  No-one will be forced to respond (or to read aloud):  all are encouraged to do so.
  13. Promote Curiosity by rewarding students who ask vocabulary, comprehension and knowledge questions, using the Pembroke reward system and verbal praise. 
  14. Expose Learners to live author visits/opportunities whenever and wherever possible to consolidate Pembroke assertion that reading and writing is important, valued and “what we do.”

The Reading Room is a welcoming, bright, tidy, modern, calm and the books available for students to borrow and to read within lessons will be new, well cared-for, relevant, diverse and cater for all.  Students are encouraged to make recommendations for purchase and are encouraged to share recommendations with one another.

References and Curriculum Development Research

The Enchanted Hour:  The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction Meghan Cox Gurdon  (Piatkus 2019)

Tell Me: (Children, Reading and Talk) with The Reading Environment Aidan Chambers (Thimble Press, 2011)

Making Every English Lesson Count Andy Tharby (Crown House Publishing) 2017)

Read to Lead Course Handbook The Reader Organisation, Liverpool (2018)