This term in the Arthur Holt Library we have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with all of year 7 on a Wide Reading programme in collaboration with the English Department.
The Wide Reading lessons are being conducted on a fortnightly basis during timetabled English classes. The unit is comprised of 4 core lessons, plus an optional lesson, integrating student voice and choice.
Student engagement with books is the major focus of the programme with the unit being designed to promote a love of reading through activities that promote skills in sustained reading, predicting and inferring, speaking and listening, evaluating and reflecting, recommending and reviewing.
Whilst the focus is on reading for pleasure, the students will experience other benefits related to the function of reading such as increased vocabulary, improvements in spelling, reading comprehension and verbal fluency. (Cunningham and Stanovich; Krashen, 2004)
What is Wide Reading?
The concept of wide reading is based on the idea that as students develop as independent readers it is important to promote reading from a variety of genres. In the Arthur Holt Library we categorise books under their various genres to make the collection more accessible and to encourage the students to read outside their preferred genre.
Why Wide Reading?
Reading is a life skill that enables us to access a world of information, appreciate literature from all genres, get lost in one’s own imagination summoned by the creative brilliance of storytellers and develop empathy through exploring the lives of the characters we become acquainted with in the books we read.
When we read widely we are exposed to new worlds, different perspectives, a variety of writing styles and new information which may expose us to new ways of thinking.
Links to Orientation day
Our wide reading lessons were designed to link closely to Orientation day where Year 7 had spent time learning about the various genre, completing a genre scavenger hunt and listening to fiction being read aloud by our teacher librarians. Our aim was to familiarise the students with the library, make them feel as if it is their space and ask the big question ‘what do they want to see in the library next year?’.
Would this Book Changed your Life?
The Year 7 Wide Reading Programme “Would this book change your life? is a student led version of This Book Changed My Life designed to encourage students to reflect on their reading habits, think about books that have had a significant impact on them or have changed their life and encourage them to have conversations about books.
Year 7 students were asked to reflect on a book that had changed their life or had a significant impact on them in some way. They then filled out the ‘Would this book change your life?’ card with the title and author of the book and were asked to explain in a few words why this book had changed their life.
It is well known that the benefits of reading for students of all ages are extensive. Through reading we are increasing our vocabulary, improving our spelling, becoming more proficient in our writing and opening our minds to new horizons.
The next activity Year 7 students were asked to participate in was a fast and furious game aptly named “Rapid Recommendations”. They were challenged to think about a book they had read over the holidays in order to engage in a conversation about the book and make recommendations to their peers. The game began with two lines of students (and teachers) standing opposite each other in a pair, one student making a recommendation while the other listened, swapping roles after a minute. The buzzer sounded after two minutes and one line moved a step to the left to receive their next recommendation from a new partner. This cycle was repeated 4 times, recommendations were recorded on a card and by the end of the game each student had four suggested books to choose from.
The recommendations from their peers were used as a guide to curate a selection of books for the students to choose from. They were then given time to select and get to know their books and choose again until they were happy with their selection.
We encouraged the Year 7 students to engage in active reading including reader predictions which allows the reader to anticipate what will happen next in the story and how characters might develop. This increases their engagement in the story and stimulates critical thought. To read more about how Trinity fosters reader predictions read here .
Writing a Review
The cycle of Wide Reading lessons finished with the students writing a review of their book and posting the review on the Library catalogue. This gives the students a voice in collection promotion and enables all students to access peer book recommendations to assist them in choosing their next book. With over two hundred new reviews from year 7 available through the catalogue there should be no shortage of ideas for future reading.
By Leanne Heanly