Education and knowledge are about more than an assimilation of facts. They involve feelings and understanding, and these can best be derived through reading. There is also no doubt that statistics show a close correlation between academic achievement and reading.
In a time of cut backs, with Libraries closing and when our prisons are full of young people unable to read and write, it’s rather wonderful to find that Whitchurch Primary School is enthusiastically encouraging and pushing reading in different ways.
At the centre of the school there’s a library run by Mrs Jo Clarke, who reviews books for The Times Educational Supplement. Once a week, each class has a library period, where children are encouraged to choose and read books of their choice. Each class is given an author of the month to research and enjoy. Teachers share books by ’their’ author with the children in the class. Mrs Clarke has recently opened the library after school on a Monday, so that parents, future pupils and their parents too can share in the wonderful selection of books, many of them purchased through money raised by the hard work of FOWPS (Friends of WPS.)
Then there are visiting authors who come to speak to the children about the characters, plots and themes they create. Some bring their illustrator with them and intrigue the children with fantastically imaginative drawings. The school even has its patron of reading, the author, Abi Elphinstone, who sets up writing and reading competitions for the children. She is a welcome and regular visitor to the school. The children are clearly inspired by the writing tasks she creates for them. They voluntarily participate!
Children are encouraged to read every day. While parents at home are an important part of this, an army of listeners has been recruited from parents, grandparents and those ‘just’ wanting to help. These willing individuals come in to school on a regular basis to encourage the child by listening, and then discussing the book with the individual. The children respond well to the individual attention and gradually learn to love books and then to love reading. (Each adult is DBS checked.) If you’re interested in helping, please do volunteer!
Quite apart from everyday classroom reading, children are challenged to extra reading at home, through a reward system that encourages them to climb a ladder towards a higher badge of achievement. These badges are presented in school assemblies, and then worn, with pride, by the individuals.
Children who have reading difficulties are not forgotten, and the school has a wonderful SENCO in Mrs Jane Henderson, who champions a ‘Reading Recovery’ programme that is focused on getting every child to achieve at least their own reading age.
Ruth Vale (Foundation Governor)