Reading For Pleasure

What actually is reading for pleasure and why is it vital for schools?  

Anything from poetry to instruction manuals, magazines, comics, biography, fiction, history, information – it’s a lifelong resource. You can do it anytime, anywhere.

When I was working in a children’s bookshop, every lunchtime for a fortnight a boy of about nine years old from a nearby Traveller settlement  would come in, ask if there were any books about dogs, and would browse and sample all kinds of titles for half an hour, then leave. I wasn’t sure whether he could read or not, but I sensed his pleasure.

At home with a small child, I used to think of sharing books as a kind of playing, especially since my two year old would demand to “play books” on a daily basis.It was entirely pleasurable and satisfying for us both, and later on we used to act out scenes from stories at her request. I have the same feelings when I am involved in any “reading lesson” at school. I approach each one with a strong sense of optimism and anticipation, and it feels like a new experience each time. As a teacher, I see myself as a sympathetic co-reader, ready to help but also to set up the reading experience for the child by giving him or her the expectation of enjoyment. This applies to all children, regardless of age or reading ability. I like to read with anybody, sometimes for no reason other than the shared pleasure of discovering in the text something familiar or unfamiliar, humorous or thought-provoking. Every home or school book  -sharing encounter between an adult and a child can be a quality experience carrying a positive message about reading.

How to have a reading for pleasure ethos in school.

Being part of a community is a source of pleasure. How can teachers create a  community of readers? By getting children together with books of course! But what effect does this have?

Here are some vital tips.

  1. Have an interested ‘expert’ on the school staff – or be the interested expert!
  2. Personal choice.
  3. Make spaces, places and time for reading.
  4. Have excellent book provision and displays.
  5. Have ‘book-talk’ sessions at any time.
  6. Have plenty of listening to books read aloud. Opportunities for open-ended discussion, sharing of response.
  7. Maximise every opportunity for looking at and talking about books.
  8. Get parents maximally involved.
  1. Have an interested ‘expert’ on the school staff – or be the interested expert!

In an ideal world there’d be someone on the staff with some training and enough knowledge and interest in children’s literature to be able to advise other teachers. However, if this isn’t the case anyone can keep informed via the internet, book review magazines such as Carousel, Rough guides, joining The Federation Of Children’s Book Groups (, and by visiting bookshops and libraries and browsing their stock & recommendations. Children can equally be involved in this kind of research.

Make sure you read the books yourself!

If you need advice you are welcome to contact me at

  1. Personal choice

Supporting personal book choice is something that teachers need to be able to do. This involves allowing children time for browsing and the freedom to choose independently, but also being on hand to make suggestions based on knowledge of the child’s tastes as a reader and, of course, familiarity with the bookstock. I have found individual conferencing to be rewarding, when you review what the child has read over a period of time and discuss what might be the next book to be chosen. Although this is a private activity, it contributes to the sense of being part of a community in which books can be talked about, compared and recommended.

  1. Make spaces, places and time for reading.

Spaces: Provide cosy book corners in classrooms, user-friendly central library with library monitors on hand to help at break times (they can have a job description and a badge).

Other spaces and places: My school had a ‘bookbed’ (designed by a parent) in the entrance hall; another had books in under-stair spaces, another had a big ‘dolls’ house’ structure outside filled with books for children and parents to read and borrow.

Times: Designated quiet times for reading (DEAR, ERIC.), but basically any time is right.

  1. Have excellent book provision and displays.

For more information on book provision follow this LINK.

  1. Book talk   

A more formal way of sharing opinions is to have regular “booktalk” sessions, when one child chooses a favourite book to present to the class.It involves each presenter in being reflective, summarising a plot, talking about a character, and selecting extracts to read aloud. This was a very popular activity in the schools I’ve worked in,, with children obviously enjoying sharing their responses in a public way and allowing their own pleasure in reading to shine out.  I will always remember a boy aged eight. who was autistic and often found it hard to communicate, doubled over with laughter as he read an extract from ‘Horrid Henry’. His pleasure was infectious, and it sparked off a hunt for copies around the school.Sometimes this would happen in an impromptu way, with someone wanting to share  a book on the spur of the moment.

  1. Books read aloud.

Why? Listening to books read aloud engages pupils with the text – if it’s well read. So – refine your skills, put on a dramatic performance, do the voices. It’s an enjoyable social activity!

Who? Teacher to class, group or individual. Children to class, group, friend, younger child (especially reading their own composed texts. 

How often? If you can manage it, at least twice a day. This could be: a while picture book, part of a serialised story?, a new book, an old favourite, a child’s own text, a poem, an information text such as the Guinness Book of Records.

  1. Maximise every opportunity for looking at and talking about books.

The big picture: Author focus weeks, visiting authors, book weeks, book clubs, events such as World Book Day and National Poetry Day.

The smaller picture: On-going book-swaps, read a poem two minutes before home time, get parents in to talk about favourite books, quick check-ins on current reading, news about new publications….

  1. Get parents maximally involved.

Regular meetings with parents to talk about: individual progress, school’s reading policy, but also illustrate talks for parents on e.g. picture books, or classic and modern texts (possibly controversial texts)

By using The Primary language record download HERE

By Using The Four Week Reading Project. CLICK HERE

**By Phil Ferguson**

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