Why have a Reading for Pleasure Policy
Since March 2012 it has been an OFSTED requirement that all state schools in the country have a Reading for Pleasure Policy (see Moving English Forward paras. 65 – 71, pages 29-31). Although this is obviously not obligatory for Independent schools, several LIPSSEE members have reported that they have been asked by their English Depts. to produce just such a policy. As promoting a whole-school reading for enjoyment ethic is our field of expertise perhaps it could do no harm for us all to have such a policy? There is also the possibility of course that our ISI inspectors will not come and visit the library or even speak to us, but by submitting a Reading for Pleasure Policy along with all our other paperwork, we can show what the library is doing to promote and develop reading throughout the school
Before creating the policy make sure you have the full support of senior management. This is absolutely essential for the ultimate success of any whole- school library programme and also helps overcome any opposition/ problems. Ideally the librarian should not be left to formulate the policy alone either, this should be done with other reading enthusiasts such as the Head of English, members(s) of the SMT and/or the library committee (if there is one) .
The Reading Connects audit tools for schools could provide a useful framework for both developing the policy and an action plan for the future.
What should a Reading for Pleasure Policy include?
A quick internet search will bring up loads of examples but The National Union of Teachers (NUT) produced some very useful guidance at the time on how to draft a comprehensive Reading for Pleasure policy. Unfortunately the original document is no longer available but a brief resume of all the main points can be found below.
According to the NUT a School Reading for Pleasure Policy or Statement should include the following:
- a statement on who/what the policy is for
- a clear outline of the difference between the Reading for Pleasure Policy and the school English or Literacy Policy: this is absolutely necessary as literacy includes not just reading but speaking, listening and writing skills as well; it focuses mainly on the development and mechanics of these skills, whereas reading for pleasure focuses on individual choice and reading that is done primarily for enjoyment. Reading is a life skill something we all do everyday, it is not just a classroom activity.
- a statement on the value of reading for pleasure and how it links to wider academic, social and emotional development: use authoritative and recent research and quote from these sources in order to give clear evidence of its impact and benefits
- access and equalities issues in relation to reading for pleasure. This should include accessible formats as well as consideration of the content of the books made available for use by the children: your policy must clearly state a commitment of the library to provide different books and resources in different formats in order to meet the differing needs of your students (i.e audiobooks, dyslexia-friendly publications, ebooks, books in other languages, etc.). There must be an official acknowledgement that students may prefer to access stories in formats other than print and the financial implications of this will also have to be considered simply because books in different formats cost more than simple paperbacks!
- a statement about the importance of using the widest definition of reading. This could include newspapers, e-books, comics, graphic novels, picture books etc. This is the point in your policy where you decide on your school’s definition of reading for pleasure. Ideally you want to use the widest definition possible and have it officially accepted in order to challenge any possible decisions that are made in the future that may threaten your pupils’ right to choose what they want to read.
- the importance of the role of the teacher and other adults in school in relation to fostering a love of reading through a wide range of activities: this is the point in your policy when you acknowledge the importance of using role models in the school to support your message and that every single member of staff is responsible for reinforcing a positive attitude towards reading for enjoyment. This is a good time to get your Headteacher on board with this idea
- links to planning for reading for pleasure across the curriculum for both the whole school and individual classes and not just limited to English lessons – make sure to mention briefly, maybe in a series of bullet points, what the library is doing to promote this and give some concrete examples.
- information about the practical ways in which home-school links can support the school policy and how, by giving practical examples, the library contributes to this by empowering parents to support their children’s reading e.g. parents’ evenings, newsletters etc
- a statement about the importance of making links with and using the local public library e.g. Summer Reading Challenge, digital loans etc
- a commitment by the school to ensuring that all pupils have regular access to the school library, properly staffed and resourced. Include mention of timetabled library periods when quiet reading, book talk and browsing can take place, but do not forget to include the opportunities pupils have to visit your library at their own free will to browse or borrow a book at break, lunchtimes and before/after school
- a statement on the budget share for reading and library resources – it should be adequately funded on an annual basis, in line with other school budget areas
- implications for professional development and support: is the school ready to give you opportunity to lead staff insets regarding the latest children literature or on how to promote reading for pleasure in the classroom? Is the school ready to acknowledge that you need time to attend professional courses?
- a commitment to evaluate the Reading for Pleasure Policy. A Reading for Pleasure Policy should be reviewed ideally once every year.
A policy such as this which is expected to involve the whole-school may take several years before it is fully embedded. However, once a reading culture is established within the school, it won’t be dependent on the enthusiasm of one person, it will become part of the ethos of the school and involve everyone in the process.