How do we keep students reading in lockdown? 5 things I’ve tried this week.

It’s no secret that social and economic disadvantage is having a huge impact on access to learning, whether this is through a lack of technology, adequate study space or parental engagement (Lucas, Nelson, Sims 2020) One further aspect of lockdown that I’ve been thinking about with my own students is the way in which it is changing their reading habits. As Jane Carter points out on her blog, many of the most vulnerable learners “and those with few books at home or with parents and carers who did not have the confidence or resources to support their child,” are in need of greater reading support at home.

This week, I’ve been experimenting with some ways to get my students more engaged with reading at home. Here are a few things I’ve tried:

  1. Maintaining weekly reading slots

I’ve still been dedicating one lesson a week to reading with KS3 classes (as we would do in school) with the intention of keeping students motivated.

  1. Reading Surveys

After scheduling regular reading slots, I surveyed my classes on their reading habits during lockdown. The results were interesting!

In my year 7 middle ability class, (usually my keenest readers), 61% of students said they were reading less during lockdown. In my high ability year 9 class, 51% of students were reading less and  in my middle ability year 10 class, 50% were reading less.

As well as reading less, classes where I have the lowest number of Pupil Premium students are also the ones who report they are reading more- but on digital devices such as tablets and kindles. It sounds great that they’re still able to read on digital devices, but there’s a difference between reading from an iPhone with a shattered screen and a Kindle Paperwhite. Indeed, Delgado et al suggest that “Paper-based reading yields better comprehension outcomes than digital-based reading.” (‘Don’t throw away your printed books: A meta-analysis on the effects of reading media on reading comprehension.’ 2018)

  1. Books in real life

It sounds obvious, but I keep a pile of books on the shelf behind me, visible during Google Meets. We start each (KS3) lesson by holding up what we’re reading and adding to a shared Google Doc, tracking what page we’re up to etc.

  1. Reading aloud with students

Our school is lucky enough to have a subscription to ePlatform, a digital library for schools. By sharing my screen, students can read along with me and can take it in turns to read aloud. Actually hearing the students’ voices was also a welcome relief!

  1. Non fiction articles 

Articles on The Day (for KS4) and the Newsround site (for KS3) have been useful to start the lesson with. Again, if I share my screen students can take turns to read aloud. In Google Meet, the option to share a quick poll with students works well to gauge opinion on topical issues.

This doesn’t seem like a lot, but I plan to keep chipping away at making reading a priority with my classes. I’m reminded of the Guardian article from May of last year, in which “According to the nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults, surveyed from 29 April to 1 May, the nation has also increased the amount of time it spends reading books from around 3.5 hours per week, to six. … Just 10% of adults said they were reading less”. 

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