Reading role models
Recent research by the National Literacy Trust asked primary and secondary students about figures that could inspire reading. Role models from the immediate family figure prominently for all ages, but more secondary than primary pupils said that their role model was a sportsperson or musician. Even if a celebrity was not famous because of their reading skills, young people said the materials they recommend would encourage them to read. Primary pupils were generally more likely to say that a range of people were very important people who inspired them to read, while friends at school were prominent in inspiring reading for secondary pupils.
What you can do.
- Be a positive role model yourself – let the students see you are a reader!
- Find time to read aloud to students - of all ages - as often as possible. Put reading at the heart of your timetable.
- Try to broaden your knowledge of children's/teenage literature and popular culture so that you are better able to advise your pupils on 'good stuff to read'.
- If possible, use a senior or high-profile member of staff as a reading mentor - this will make students feel important and that their reading is being taken seriously.
- Encourage parents to be good reading role models.
- Make use of the wider community - invite in local people to show how reading helps them day to day. Boys respond well to seeing people in 'real jobs', particularly if the job reflects their interests. It helps them see that reading has a purpose.
- Invite in authors to talk about what it is to be a reader and a writer.
- Make use of peer mentoring - the opportunity to read with another child, particularly one who has overcome similar obstacles, is an immensely effective strategy for children who struggle with reading.
- Encourage other teachers to visit the library - a presence at lunch and break times (especially male) is particularly useful.
- Head teachers can model the importance of reading at the highest level - can they regularly talk about reading, or share their book choices? Can they visit staff and student reading groups? They can also talk about reading at staff meetings, and invite others' book choices.
- Involve other men in the school - caretakers and support staff, for example.
- Make use of school governors, to talk about their reading and what reading means to them.
"Many of our pupils told us that they were lacking reading role models and rarely, if ever, saw their parents reading. We decided to tackle this directly by getting all our staff to promote reading as much as possible. We asked staff to write about their reading habits – what and when they like to read, their favourite books, etc – and made sure these were displayed all over the school. Every teacher displays the book they are currently reading on their classroom door and the 'get caught reading' idea has been a great way of creating fun visual displays involving all the school community.
We also have posters of popular book characters in the corridors and we invite the pupils to recommend a book, real or imaginary, to them. We also joined the Reading Champions initiative, targeted at Years 4 to 6, and included the boys in the decision-making process. Every Friday afternoon, the Reading Champion boys read with key stage 1 pupils, and we use photographs of them in the class book corners along with their book recommendations. The success of the Reading Champions group has meant that the boys are now developing their own calendar of reading events throughout the year, as well as their own pages on the school's website."
West Thornton Primary School, Croydon - Reading Connects primary school of the year 2006/07 (taken from National Literacy Trust's 'Wikireadia' encyclopedia of good practice)
Posters of reading role models are available free to download or order at low cost from:
Star Reads 'urban' black role models
Champions Read football star posters
National Literacy Trust Celebrity Posters
(England footballers, WWE wrestlers, England cricketers, black urban music, Postman Pat and Alan Titchmarsh)
See also the National Literacy Trust Guide to using the World Cup to promote reading.
'Look Who's Been Caught Reading!'
(Lots of American celebrities and cartoon characters such as Alicia Keys, LL Cool J, Nicole Vaidisova, Yoda)