15 May 2012
139 schools from 7 authorities (Essex, Slough; Norfolk; Southend; Thurrock and Hertfordshire) are taking part in the London 2012 inspired Reading Relay which started in September 2011 along with public and schools library services in those authorities and will run until the end of the summer term.
The specific aims of The Reading Relay are to:
Each participating school was put into a chain of five schools and assigned an Olympic or Paralympic value. In each of the half terms for the academic year 2011/2012 one school in the chain has selected a book which they think represents their value to recommend to the other schools. All recommendations are done by email. By June half term 2012 every school will have chosen a title to pass on and then during the second half of the summer term all schools recommend their most inspirational book of the year.
Each school was provided with a toolkit to help them run the project and a link person from one of the participating authorities to go to for help and advice.
The process for choosing the book was left up to each school so that it could fit around existing school commitments. This has lead to a wide range of activities being used including discussions, debate and presentations, voting from a selection chosen by the teacher and voting from a selection chosen by the children. Some schools visited their local library and made their choices there.
A wide range of titles and authors have been recommended by the children but there have been some clear favourites. The most popular authors so far are Michael Morpurgo, Roald Dahl, Louis Sachar and Julia Donaldson. It is also obvious that the children have put a lot of thought into why they chose their book and the exploration of the values has lead to some really interesting discussions in school
“It shows how friends can share and be kind. A core value at our school is being caring, and we feel that this book helps children to understand how to be a caring friend. All children at the school voted to pick their favourite friendship book and Sharing a Shell was our winner”
Sharing a Shell by Julia Donaldson chosen by Pear Tree Mead Primary and Nursery School, Harlow, Essex for the theme of Friendship
“We thought that Matilda and Miss Honey were both very courageous characters. Matilda carried on believing in herself even though her parents kept telling her she was no good. Miss Honey stood up for what she believed in and was brave to teach in her style”
Matilda by Roald Dahl chosen by How Wood Primary and Nursery School, St Albans, Hertfordshire for the theme of Courage
“This book was anything but ordinary! It is an exciting story about how a young boy’s imagination makes him see he is excellent. We liked the pages without words because we could be the character, in his world. Then make up our own ideas about what the boy could see, hear or smell. We really enjoyed all taking turns as the character, then writing our own story to music. We think this book would appeal to girls and boys, because everyone has an imagination and using this special talent makes us all excellent”.
Once Upon an Ordinary School Day by Colin McNaughton chosen by Montem Primary School, Slough, Berkshire for the theme of Excellence
“We loved both the story and the illustrations. We liked the twist on the original idea of the wolf and the three pigs and also the inevitability of the ending! The younger classes loved the story itself; while the older children thought the illustrations portrayed the wolf’s feelings really well. We felt this brought out a deeper meaning – how someone feels when they are not treated equally or thought of as equal by someone else”
Wolf Won't Bite by Emily Gravett chosen by Middleton VC Primary School, King's Lynn, Norfolk for the theme of Equality & Respect
At the end of each half term a booklist for each theme has been put together and shared with the participating schools and libraries.
Although the Reading Relay isn’t yet completed, the initial feedback from schools has shown that the project has had a very positive impact on the children taking part in a number of key areas:
Talking and debating skills – oracy is an area of concern in schools as highlighted in the recent report by The Expert Panel for the National Curriculum, Department for Education 2011 and the Removing Barriers to Literacy Survey, Ofsted, 2011. This project has encouraged children to speak and express opinions and teachers have commented that the quality of discussion has improved in some participating schools as a result Reading for pleasure - children have explored a number of books to make recommendations and some of them have gone on to read other books by the author they have chosen
Higher profile of reading in the school - public and school libraries have been involved in helping children make their selection which has often been accompanied by displays around the schools and presentations by the children in assemblies.
Group participation and team working- some teachers said that it encourage children to work as a group, one teacher particularly highlighted that she had benefitted from working with a group from across the age range
Understanding and interpreting messages in stories -schools felt that children really explored the messages in the stories and thought about how they could apply them in their day to day lives.
Sharing reading recommendations across age groups -although many schools worked with selected groups, we were struck by the number of schools who communicated with every child involved using displays and assembles.
Bonding for a new class -one unexpected outcome highlighted by three teachers was that because friendship was the first value we asked schools to look at, this provided an ideal way to start the new academic year helping a new class bond.
The project's Inspire-marked class visit pack inviting schools to their local library for a series of library-based learning activities to celebrate London 2012 was launched in the Spring term with 11 classes (339 children in total) participating in the sessions with lots more requests for participation.