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Young critics get reading

Article | Published in TESS on 7 January, 2005 | By: Raymond Ross

Traditionally, the best way to get children reading for pleasure is to buy them some books and a torch and tell them not to read in bed at night.

Kirkintilloch High, in East Dunbartonshire, and its nearest associated primary, Oxgang, are taking a more 21st century approach through a link project. The aim is to encourage reading among Oxgang P7s, particularly boys, by providing them with a box of books to read for fun.

The pupils then e-mail Kirkintilloch High library with their thoughts on the books.

The project, funded through the Scottish Executive Home Reading Initiative, also aims to strengthen primary-secondary links and to aid P7 to S1 transition.

"We want to instill or reinforce the idea that reading is fun and not just something you do in class," says Kirkintilloch High librarian Amanda Minns.

The project began with Ms Minns and classroom assistant Liz Carmichael delivering the books to the primary school and introducing themselves and the idea.

"We chose a wide selection of writers and books popular with that age group, authors like Jacqueline Wilson and titles like the Horrible Histories and The Spiderwick Chronicles, as well as picture books.

"The invitation to email their responses - whether positive or negative does not matter - has proved very successful. Some of them e-mail four or five times a week. If they're not enjoying a book we tell them to choose another one," she says.

"I think it helps, especially with boys, who think - or thought - that reading is boring and something girls do," says Ms Minns.

One P7 critic emailed: "I have just finished The War Diaries of Alistar Fury The Kiss of Death. My fraviorte bit is when Alistar forgets to turn the tape recorder off I I thought Gilsse was the best character because she was french and she made the story intresting. I have read this book over and over because it was so good. I want to read all the books Jamie Rix has wrote because I love this one so much."

Another wrote: "I am reading Al Capone Does My Shirts. I really enjoy it. I don't usally like to read but I like this book. I like things to do with gangsters. This is the first book I have read that I enjoy and I look forward to finishing it."

The project is about early intervention, says Ms Minns. "It means they know us before they come to the high school and that's important because S1 pupils are my biggest customers.

"I want them to know that reading in the library is cool and that they can make demands, like any customer, for the kinds of books they want.

"It's too late to get them in S3."

The project is also about supporting pupils, says Ms Carmichael. "It's getting them to see they can read what they like and not what they're told to or just what they read in class. We get to know them and that will help with transition and with supporting the more vulnerable pupils when they come here."

Oxgang P7 teacher Margaret Malcolm reports that the pupils are loving it, that the books suit a wide range of abilities and interests and as a result, and most importantly, that all the pupils get the chance to succeed at reading.

The pupils support what she says. One P7 emailed: "The book I am reading is called EAGER by Helen Fox. It is very funny and emotional. I started it yesterday, but i am only on page 17. I think this project was a great idea.

my friends in my class are realy getting into their books."

Another wrote: "I am reading Midnight by Jacquline Wilson. I'm enjoying it very much. I havn't quite finished the book yet. I'm only on chapter 4! My favourite part is when Wil is guiding Violet about the house and leads her into next doors garden, it's quite funny. I can't wait till I come up to the high school where I can read more of the great books in the library."

Kirkintilloch High is hopeful that the project will continue and be rolled out to all of its five associated primaries.


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