One thing, however, had evaded us. All of the research we did on developing volitional reading habits in children pointed us in the direction of the importance of reading role models. Every training course stressed the importance of teachers’ knowledge of children’s literature, of making personalised recommendations and of expanding reading repertoires. But how could we achieve this? How can we get busy adults, with demanding jobs and heavy workloads, to read children’s literature for ‘fun’?
For many months, we pondered this quandary. We made tentative suggestions and had small successes – a few teachers signed up to NetGalley, others read recommended reads from their year band list of ‘Top 20 Books’. But progress was limited: we were impacting on the few, rather than the many. The idea of a book club niggled at me, but I brushed it aside, until I could no longer ignore the little voice inside me telling me to try. At the end of March, I decided to be brave and send an email asking staff if they would be interested in a staff book club: a low-threat, no-judgement-if-you-don’t-finish-the-book club. I crossed my fingers and hoped – if we could even get ten members of staff on board, I would feel that we had taken a real step in the right direction.
By now, staff had attended countless training sessions on reading. They knew about its importance and the impact developing volitional reading habits could have on our pupils; they had seen these changes first hand in some students. Within half an hour of sending the email, the magic number of ten members had been achieved. By the next day, we were at fifteen and I was overjoyed.
But what would we read? As a keen reader and reviewer myself, I had a number of ideas of ‘brilliant’ books, so narrowing this down was the real problem! In the end, I took inspiration from our Year 5 and 6 pupils; a number of whom had been Blue Peter Book Awards judges. Time and time again, they had remarked how we ‘must’ read their favourite book – A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll. The idea of reading a book so many of our pupils had enjoyed had immediate appeal: having a shared canon text that so many children could discuss with their teachers made the decision a ‘no-brainer’.