Teachers as readers
Ruth Clark (@RuthEllenClark R.Clark@chi.ac.uk) is Subject Librarian, Bognor Regis Campus, University of Chichester.
Ruth Clark talks about a professional collaboration at the University of Chichester with the aim of helping pre-service teachers to develop a love of children’s literature before they enter the classroom – so that they in turn can inspire children to love reading for pleasure.
The University of Chichester has a strong national reputation for teaching, and a record of training teachers on the Bognor Regis campus from 1839. In 2011, the new Learning Resource Centre opened in Bognor with a strong focus on learning resources to support pre-service teachers. On the ground floor, a separate collection is dedicated to Classroom Resources. This collection was created to replicate a school library and encourages pre-service teachers to consider the learning environment for the children they will teach. Students can borrow 20 items from this collection to use in placement schools in addition to their allocation for academic books. There are approximately 20,000 items including books, puppets, story sacks, visual resources, and dvds. I am responsible for managing this fantastic collection, including purchasing and promotion to students and staff.
Encouraging trainee teachers to
read for pleasure
As subject librarian, I work closely with the Primary English Team in the Institute of Education and as a team of professionals, we share a belief in the benefits of reading for pleasure for children. If children can read for pleasure they will be stronger academically, more empathetic and will have better well-being.1,2 One of the main ways that I can help children read for pleasure is to support the pre-service teachers to develop a love of children’s literature. They have a potential 40 years of influence in the classroom ahead of them and if we can initiate an interest in reading children’s books whilst they are training, then the consequences for the children they teach could be enormous.
Make them book reviewers
However, encouraging students to make full use of the collection during their time of study has to be creative, targeted and relevant to them. Every pre-service teacher has a Classroom Resources induction where they are challenged as teams to create a classroom display on a topic. They are encouraged at this point to sign up to become book reviewers for the newly-published books arriving in stock. This gives them some great new books to share with their placement classes and increases their knowledge of newly-published children’s authors.
Events and book awards
The Library Service and the Institute of Education have jointly run several promotional events such as LGBT History Month sessions encouraging students to use books with LGBT themes in the classroom, shadowing the UKLA book award shortlist, and collaborating to produce a Classroom Resources promotional film, which can be viewed at www.chi.ac.uk/search/course-search/academic-life.
A Classroom Resources page on our VLE is used to provide information about the collection and send announcements such as information about shortlisted titles for children’s book awards, a promotional book of the month and targeted emails for the students going on placement.
Learning from each event
As I continued to work with Rebecca Webb, Co-ordinator for Primary English at the University of Chichester, we discovered that building links with students was crucial. We have different roles within the university and different relationships with students so we capitalised on this to bring them together.
We also wanted to build positive relationships with our alumni, allowing us to nurture the sense of community for which the University of Chichester is renowned. By hosting an event on campus it would encourage local schools and alumni to make the most of the University on their doorstep and the knowledge of the staff involved.
UKLA/OU Teachers’ Reading Groups
The perfect opportunity to do this was presented to us at a free informal “ChiUniTeachMeet” when one of the presenters talked about the Open University/United Kingdom Literacy Association (OU/UKLA) “Teachers as Readers” partnership groups.
The groups are based on the research from a two-phase OU/ UKLA project examining children’s and teachers’ reading for pleasure.3 The research revealed the transformation that teachers who read and readers who teach can make to children’s reading lives. The Research Rich Pedagogies website encourages schools to get involved and change reading practice. “Teachers as Readers” groups have been created nationally and Rebecca and I both felt that this was something the University of Chichester could offer to students, alumni and local teachers.
The first event
The first event is always the hardest! Thankfully we were able to use the resources available at the University of Chichester. The marketing department were happy to design and produce flyers and posters and these were displayed at the university and sent to local schools. They used social media and photographs to promote the event from the university Twitter account @chiuni, and I used the library account @chiunilib and my own @ruthellenclark to invite attendees to the event listed on free event website, Eventbrite.
We thought carefully about the number of attendees we wanted to have and the venue for the meeting. We decided to cap the numbers at 30 and we set up refreshments and café-style tables within the Classroom Resources collection of the Learning Resource Centre. We displayed prize-winning books on the table as conversation starters, voted for our favourites and talked about the aims and objectives for “Teachers as Readers”.
The first event was fully booked, a mailing list for subsequent events was
created and people who attended the first meeting booked for the next event three months later.
Sharing the training
The next event was much simpler to organise and we concentrated on disseminating the training that Rebecca had received from the Open University about running a teachers’ reading group. We stated the intention to support and develop professional practice and share outcomes from our group on the Research Rich Pedagogies website research/reading-for-pleasure.4 Students and teachers used laptops to register on the Research Rich Pedagogies website and we agreed that developing our knowledge of poetry would be the aim of the group.
OU/UKLA sent a Book Box full of brand new, recently-published books which we distributed to the students and teachers. These books were not to be donated to the school library, or for the teacher’s pupils to read, but were for the teachers themselves to read, enjoy and then return at the next meeting to share with a colleague.
We were very intentional with the aims and objectives of the group but we also wanted the teachers and students to feel like it was a pleasure to attend this meeting. So we provided refreshments (sharing the costs between the Library Service and the Institute of Education) and we provided good quality books for raffle prizes.
We are officially launching the group on 9 October 2018 and will be following a set programme created by the OU/UKLA partnership. After emailing previous attendees and those who had agreed to be on our mailing list, we found that spaces were already filling up within a week.
Holding initial trial meetings enabled us to learn the ways that we could work best. We needed to find timings that would suit Rebecca, myself and the students and teachers involved. For subsequent meetings we have decided that we will try to mix up students and teachers so that they can discuss next steps with their colleagues, but also learn new ideas from different people. We are also going to create feedback forms to receive more than anecdotal evidence about what attendees felt worked best and how we can make it better next time.
Ultimately, we want students and teachers to invite colleagues who are not reading for pleasure themselves to attend and discover the enjoyment and benefits of reading in order to inspire the children in their responsibility. Who knows what might happen if these groups around the country inspire the next generation of children to be a nation of readers for pleasure!
References and links
1 Department for Education, 2012. Research
Evidence on Reading for Pleasure.
2 The Reading Agency, 2015. Literature review: the impact of reading for pleasure and empowerment. https://bit.ly/1TQCSmf
3 Cremin, T. et. Al, 2009. Teachers as Readers: building communities of readers.
4 Research Rich Pedagogies