Children’s ‘Rights Of A Child Reader’ Guide.

As part of this blog post, my class and I decided to put together a guide to reading for pleasure. The children came up with roughly 30 rights. I’ve decided to categorise them as I think it makes for more interesting interpretation. Take a look and see what you think. You can also read our ‘Year 5 Rights Of A Child Writerhere.

*Please note these are the views of the children and may not represent the views of our employer.*

The Year 5 ‘Rights Of A Child Reader’ Guide.

The role of the teacher:

  1. The right to a teacher who reads.
  2. The right to read to a teacher.
  3. The right to have a class-book read to you.

The classroom environment:

  1. The right to start your day reading.
  2. The right to a class library.

Type of books:

  1. The right to only read books you enjoy.
  2. The right to read non-fiction, poetry, pictures books, magazines, comics and newspapers.
  3. The right not to use colour-coded books (if you don’t want to).
  4. The right to choose your own level of reading (if you want to).
  5. The right to take a book home to read.
  6. The right to bring your own books in to school.

Types of reading:

  1. The right to take a break from a large book.
  2. The right to read out loud.
  3. The right to mistake a book for your life and get lost in it.
  4. The right to take your time reading.
  5. The right to read a book again.
  6. The right to act out the books you’re reading.
  7. The right to have MEGA DEAR*.
  8. The right to read at home.

Reviewing & talking about books:

  1. The right to book talks.
  2. The right to blog book reviews.
  3. The right to recommend books.
  4. The right to lend your books to the class library.
  5. The right to drop a book.
  6. The right to read and discuss Shakespeare.
  7. The right to rate a book no matter what other people think.

The reader in the writer:

  1. The right to read your class mates’ published writing and talk about it together.
  2. The right to magpie books for your own writing.

*MEGA DEAR is where children are afforded an opportunity to take reading books, play-scripts, poetry and their own writing into a larger space. Here they are allowed to perform poetry for each other, act out stories, myths or fairy-tales, have book talks, draw characters and settings, make comic strips and read and/or write together. 

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Creating A Community Of Readers: A Reading For Pleasure Article

This article is based on, and written in relation to, findings of educational research (Cremin, 2008, Pieper & Beadle, 2016 & Miller & Anderson, 2009). The tenor of this article is to allow the reader to reflect on children’s reading and is in no way a criticism of any school(s) policy or teachers’ practice.

If you’ve ever felt a pang of disappointment that some (and maybe even many) of the children in your class are not turning to books with enthusiasm and engagement, despite your best efforts at providing book-weeks, author events, booktalk sessions and a selection of ‘good’ titles in your class library, then I urge you to read on now.

A few weeks ago, I attended a conference in Cambridge on the subject of children reading for pleasure. One of the keynote speakers was Teresa Cremin, Professor of Education (literacy) at the Open University. She is also one of the co-authors of the book ‘Building Communities of Engaged Readers’. In a recent post on this website, my colleague and I described aspects of a school-based practice which we believe can encourage and maintain a classroom culture of ‘reading for pleasure‘. As someone who, like many others, has always read for pleasure, I am a passionate advocate for helping all children to experience the gains and satisfactions of such a brilliant resource. Since reading the book and attending the conference, I realise that,  while our own practice is very much affirmed by current thinking about reading for pleasure, there is still more to consider and act upon than I have been aware of.

National Curriculum And Reading

In 2013, the National Curriculum (for the first time in its history) required that children be taught to develop pleasure in reading. Although ‘enticed’ or ‘invited’ would have been better word choices than ‘taught’, this requirement was and is encouraging, since it established that reading for pleasure was no longer to be viewed simply as a desirable spin-off from reading instruction, a kind of optional extra. What was the rationale behind this official foregrounding of a hitherto ignored aspect of reading?

What Does The Research Say?

Research has shown that reading for pleasure – the desire and the will to read – carries significant personal and affective benefits for a child reader in terms of, for example:

  • fostering empathy,
  • engaging the emotions,
  • expanding the imagination,
  • providing the means of a temporary escape,
  • widening knowledge,
  • helping the child  negotiate an identity and a place in the world (Alexander, 2010).

These are arguably benefits for society in general. There are academic gains too. Children who read with engagement will read more, will absorb models for writing, develop a wider vocabulary and show improvements in spelling. (Sullivan and Brown, 2013; Cox and Guthrie, 2001.) However, research has also shown there to have been a definite decline in reading for pleasure in recent years among both primary and secondary aged children (Twist et al, 2012). This, as the book’s authors rightly say, is a cause for national (and international) concern. Something isn’t working in schools.

What I want to do in this article is to outline a primary school project set up by UKLA (United Kingdom Literacy Association) a few years ago, from which grew a distinct Reading for Pleasure pedagogy, and then to list some practical strategies which form part of this pedagogy.  The project, Teachers As Readers, aimed firstly to survey the participating teachers’ knowledge and use of children’s literature in the classroom and to find ways of enhancing this knowledge and its implementation. The most striking part of the project was the focus on the concept of  Reading Teachers, defined as ‘teachers who read and readers who teach’ (Commeyras, Bisplinghoff and Olson, 2003).

The Most Important Paragraph Of All

Developing as a Reading Teacher fundamentally involves  having a deep knowledge of yourself as a reader and of your own reading history, a commitment to reading children’s literature, together with knowing the children in your class as readers, knowing their informal reading practices both in and out of school, and acknowledging the diversity in what, how, and how much they choose to read. What is so exciting and innovative (and so connected to being human) about this concept is that, as the project showed, new and highly productive relationships between teachers and children can be forged from it, which impact positively on children’s attitudes to and pleasure in reading. If teachers are willing to position themselves as fellow-readers, share their own reading histories and experiences, and invite the children to share their everyday encounters with reading and their perceptions of themselves as readers, then it is possible for a truly reciprocal relationship to emerge, and a reciprocal reading community to be created where reading is seen as a pleasurable social practice, and talking about reading becomes endemic to the life of the classroom.

(I take this opportunity to mention that my colleague and I have been concentrating on creating a similarly reciprocal community of writers in our classroom, through everyone sharing and developing their own writing processes as part of on-going  writer to  writer conversations.)

Children Choosing Books To Read

The book shows how it is possible to translate the National Curriculum requirement into a thoughtful and sympathetic Reading for Pleasure pedagogy. The teacher’s identity shift from ‘arbiter’ of reading to Reading Teacher allows other transformations to take place. For example, knowing children’s reading preferences both in and out of school and then using this knowledge to provide a wide range of different kinds of texts in class or school libraries means that teachers are validating and respecting children’s reading choices. Children can then maybe be given the agency to be self-selectors of their own independent reading. Potentially schools might want to consider the possibility of dispensing with the practice of colour-coding children’s books (at least in class libraries). Though we appreciate that some schools also find colour-codes useful. Potentially though, children may very quickly learn to do what they need to do – be autonomously discriminating in their own choices. We only suggest this as a potential practice because the authors refer to studies (Krashen (1993), Sanacore (1999) & Gambrell,1996) which show that self-selection enhances motivation as readers, and point out that agency and motivation are crucial in fostering reading for pleasure. Of course, children would likely need advice and recommendations from their teachers. In terms of us, we can only say that our children see us as Reading Teachers; they trust us and will at least try out suggested texts that we pick out for them to try.

The question of agency and independence has implications for writing too. Allowing children to choose their own topics both increases motivation and makes clear links between reading and writing, since children will often draw on their personal reading to generate ideas for written pieces.  In our class, we tried out the use of ‘Writing Tricks Books’, in which the children could ‘magpie’ from their reading: words, phrases, and figurative language which might be helpful in describing settings or building up characters in their own writing. This has been interesting but a lot more work would be required to see what kind of benefits it has for the children’s writing outcomes.

Children Talking About Books!

One of the most important and transformative outcomes of the pedagogy to impact on reading for pleasure is the emergence, described in the book, of ‘inside-text talk’. During the project, the researchers observed apparently naturally occurring, ‘close’ conversations about reading which were taking place anywhere, any time, essentially informal, child-led, inclusive, and different from, though complementary to, the more engineered and  teacher-led ‘booktalk’ sessions which are often the only classroom discussions about reading. Rich examples of this kind of talk are given in the book. The project-teachers observed that when inside-text talk was going on, children were asking more questions, and that the questions were ‘more probing, demanding much more than simple recall of facts.  Teachers also saw the value of talk for the authentic assessment of reading, and for the ways in which it could facilitate collective and individual meaning-making.

If book talk is a core element of a community of readers, so is the social practice of a teacher reading aloud to the class – sharing poems, picture books, short stories and whole novels. Far from being simply a pleasant way to finish the day or the week, reading aloud is seen as a significant pedagogical activity with strong contributions to make to a climate of reading for pleasure. Through being read to regularly, children’s knowledge of what is out there to be enjoyed widens. If it is read well, they will absorb the shapes, language, sounds and rhythms of the text. However, while this has obvious implications for writing, the study made it clear that it is essential that children understand that hearing a text read aloud has pleasure at its heart, and that the text is not being used as a tool for another, narrower purpose, such as the teaching of grammar or as a future writing assignment. One of the project teachers had this to say, and you can hear the feeling of liberation in her words:

‘I now read to the class without thinking ‘I could do this with it or I could do that with it’ and I think the children sit back and think ‘I can just enjoy this’…..that had been a big struggle – thinking how many boxes can I tick, what objectives can I cover and you actually then lose the impact of….the book. You know, just enjoy it for a book and a good story and a good emotional journey.’

As the authors acknowledge, there is more work to be done, particularly in the area of parental involvement. I have appended a few of the strategies relating to parents which the book refers to and which were discussed at the conference. Again, the emphasis is on establishing reciprocity in reader relationships between families, parents and schools. This seems exciting.

There can be no doubt, from reading the studies, that implementing a reading for pleasure pedagogy offers huge gains in terms of creating communities of interested, engaged and enthusiastic readers. I conclude with a final word about test scores. In one of the project schools, teachers reported that over the academic year every child showed improvement in reading, and the scores of more than 50% of the children in the the two classes increased by three sub-levels or more. The following list of strategies and practices related to the pedagogy can be implemented in any classroom if teachers are personally and professionally committed to careful, systematic and consistent planning.

Which Ones Do You Think You Do?

  1. Widen your own reading of children’s literature; consult published booklists and review magazines.
  2. Allow more daily DEAR time.
  3. Have a class library with a wide range of texts.
  4. Allow the free passage of home texts to school and school texts being allowed to go home.
  5. Have child-led booklists of recommendations, and book displays with clear star ratings.
  6. Share book reviews with other schools.
  7. Connect with the local library.
  8. Read aloud on a regular basis.
  9. Ask children to write regular ‘reading letters’ to the teacher in their home-school reading record books. These require a brief answer.
  10. Have Daniel Pennac’s ‘Rights of the Reader’ understood and displayed in the classroom.
  11. Keep a record of children’s reading choices.
  12. Invite teachers, children and parents to create a personal River of Reading collage. Draw, stick on/write about anything you have read over a long or short period of time. Share in class.
  13. Invite parents into the school or class library at the end of the day, to chat or read with children. Value their personal contributions without making them feel intimidated! This could develop into a reading club or group.

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**Please note that the views expressed on this blog are our own and may not represent our employer.**

References:

  • Alexander, R., (2010) Children, Their World & Their Education London:Routledge
  • Commeyras, M., Bisplinghoff, B.S., Olson, J., (2003) Teachers as Readers: Perspectives on the importance of reading in teachers’ classrooms and lives Newwark, NJ: International Reading Association
  • Cox. K., Guthrie, J.T., (2001) Motivational and cognitive contributions to students amount of reading In Contemporary educational psychology 26(1), 116-131
  • Cremin, T., Mottram, M., Collins, F., Powell, S., Safford, K., (2014) Building Communities Of Engaged Readers London: Routledge
    • Gambrell, L., (1996) Creating classroom cultures that foster reading motivation In The Reading Teacher 50, 14-
  • Krashen, S., (2004) The power of reading: insights from research Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann
  • Sanacore, J., (1999) Encouraging children to make choices about their literacy learning In Intervention in school and clinic 35, 38-42
  • Sullivan, A., Brown, M., (2013) Social inequalities in cognitive sores arge 16: The role of reading In CLS Working Paper London: Centre for longitudinal studies
  • Twist, L., Sizmur, J., Barrlett, S., Lynn, L., (2012) PIRLS 2011 Reading Achievement in England Research Brief London: DFE

The 29 Rights Of The Child Writer.

Daniel Pennac, in his book The Rights Of The Reader, created 10 rights for child readers and these can be viewed as a poster here.

In 2011, The National Writing project produced its own ten rights for writers which includes the following:

  1. The right not to share.
  2. The right to change things and cross things out.
  3. The right to write anywhere.
  4. The right to a trusted audience.
  5. The right to get lost in your writing and not know where you’re going.
  6. The right to throw things away.
  7. The right to take time to think.
  8. The right to borrow from other writers.
  9. The right to experiment and break rules.
  10. The right to work electronically, draw or use a pen and paper.

Jeni Smith helped write these rights and you can listen to her talk in the video below:

In my classroom, the children have changed a few of these and we’ve added a few of our own.

The 29 Rights Od The Child Writer

The role of the teacher:

  • The right to have a writer-teacher.
  • The right to be shown the ‘writing tricks‘ other authors use.
  • The right to a pupil-conference where you receive genuine writing advice from a writer-teacher; not a teacher-writer.

Home writing:

  • The right to a home/school writing journal.
  • The right to write anywhere.
  • The right to take writing to and from home.

Reader in the writer:

  • The right to magpie and borrow ideas from other writers.

What to write:

How to write:

  • The right to ‘box up’ and get your ideas together.
  • The right to move around the writing process – to write your own way.
  • The right to make mistakes, cross things out and change your mind.
  • The right to abandon free-writing pieces.
  • The right to take time to think, to be unsure and to write freely.
  • The right to get lost in our writing and not know where you’re going.
  • The right to experiment and take risks.

Sharing writing:

  • The right to be shy.
  • The right to give and receive ‘author talks’ from your peers.
  • The right to a supportive audience.

Getting your work ‘reader ready’:

My question now is – what would the rights be in your class? What have I missed? Do any of these seem unrealistic? Could you do the same activity with your class? Can we share what our classes come up with and try and create a @WritingRocks_17 list of writer’s rights together?

You can leave your rights as a comment below!

**Please note that the views expressed on this blog are our own and may not represent our employer.**