Reading at Erdington Academy
Our aim is to ensure the Students at Erdington Academy “Read often, read quality and read well.”
Reading, quite simply, helps us to grow.
Reading widens our vocabulary; lowers stress; improves our memory and focus; strengthens our writing abilities; enhances our imaginations; and inspires. Every text we read, whether it is a book, article, report or journal increases our knowledge and understanding as well as opening up a whole new range of vocabulary to us.
A child’s reading skills are important to their success in school as they will allow them to access the breadth of the curriculum and improve their both their skills in writing and communicating with others. Furthermore, we understand that there is a clear correlation between students’ reading ages and their educational outcomes. That’s why we encourage reading across every part of the curriculum and place such value in being a word-rich school.
The Erdington Reading Canon
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~ Dr. Seuss.
A ‘canon’ is broadly defined as the ‘best’ literature that which is worth preserving and passing on from one generation to the next. Many of our students may view the traditional ‘canon’ as daunting and even irrelevant. However, in order for students to engage at a higher level in almost every subject and with wider society, they do need exposure to ‘the best which has been thought and said in the world’ (Matthew Arnold, 1869).
A recommended canon of texts has been compiled for our students to engage with, combining both modern and classic works, covering a diverse range of authors. The texts selected are highly literary, challenging and deserving of our attention. Our students are provided an opportunity to develop their cultural knowledge and academic vocabulary to allow them to engage with unfamiliar concepts and with critical conversations throughout life.
‘Through studying literature, pupils’ eyes are opened to the human experience; they explore meaning and ambiguity as well as the beauty and power of language.’ (Ofsted Research Review – English, 2022)
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Around the school, displays serve as a constant reminder to students about the opportunity to access these texts during their time at Erdington. The library is stocked with multiple hard copies of each text, and most are also available on the SORA e-book app as well. Each year, students are challenged to read as many books from the canon for their year group, as they can. When texts are read, they speak to the librarian to accumulate stamps on their canon card. There are extrinsic rewards for achieving different levels of completion but an intrinsic reward is stepping out of our comfort zone and reaching for that one book.
ERIC Time – Everybody reads in class.
ERIC time is as simple as it sounds, we want everyone in the classroom reading. But why? At Erdington Academy, we want all students to access a range of vocabulary both subject and non-subject specific. We want students to see that teachers are reading. We want students to really spend some time, each day, reading and reaping the benefits of reading each day. Students will spend 20 minutes every day reading as part of the ERIC time programme. The diagram shows the impact of reading just 20 minutes a day has on children.
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Guided Reading sessions in the Library
Reading lessons are pivotal in developing and honing the students’ reading skills. Students at KS3 will take part in Guided reading lessons in the library. Guided reading is a highly structured approach to reading that involves a teacher working with a small group of students reading through a book and asking questions to ensure that students are making sense of the book. The role of the teacher, as it suggested in the title, is to guide the reading of the groups and individuals. During the sessions, a variety of texts written by a diverse range of authors are introduced. The students have opportunities to engage in discussion, reflect upon and deepen their knowledge of thought-provoking topics, and study new vocabulary. Furthermore, we have invested more staffing into the lessons to ensure that students have regular highly planned reading lessons, where they are able to access skilful, yet challenging, support from a teacher.
Disciplinary Reading across the Curriculum
Reading is part of the daily life at the academy, and beyond ERIC time, students are exposed to a variety of texts across the curriculum. Staff support students in accessing texts in an appropriate manner suited to their particular subject, as how a text is read will differ in English to a text in maths.
At Key Stage 4 in particular, students, through ERIC time, are exposed to subject-specific texts that develop their hinterland knowledge in key areas. Faculties ensure students are exposed to a variety of writing within their subjects that students might not naturally come across in text books or other standard lesson resources. As students begin to develop key skills for their next steps, they are also developing the ability to read like subject experts.
Reading for pleasure and the library
In October 2022, the Sue Bowley Library was officially opened by Paulette Hamilton. Staffed with a full-time librarian, we offer students over 7000 titles, covering a range of topics across both fiction and non-fiction, featuring diverse characters and exploring a variety of issues that interest young people. Unsurprisingly, this is proving to be a popular resource for students and staff alike. The decision to relocate the old library was taken to give it a more prominent place in the Academy and to make it easier and more convenient for students to access – and at social times this has paid off, with a steady stream of students eager to find that next special read.
At Key Stage 3, students are required to have their own reading book from the library as part of their daily equipment, so that they are able to immerse themselves in knowledge and image every day during ERIC time. Other than encouraging students to select texts that are accessible, there is no limit placed on the genre or style of text students choose. The librarian has extensive knowledge to ensure, to paraphrase author James Patterson, that there is never such a thing as a hating to read, just that the right book has yet to be found.
Staff are encouraged to share their favourite reads, and elements of Key Stage 4 English homework are centred around influential texts that inspired the English team. Guided Reading lessons are taught by staff from a wide range of subjects, to show students that reading is not simply in the realm of English lessons, as well. Every opportunity is provided for students to find that one book that will ignite the spark of reading for pleasure.
We are passionate about ensuring students’ reading ages are at least that of their chronological age, not just for academic success, but for success in life.
As part of the suite of baseline assessments that Year 7 take part in, they complete a reading assessment as well, which identifies not only a reading age, but also ability in key reading skills. From this information, the school is able to put in appropriate and timely interventions to support students in this essential life skill.
Support may range simply from the benefit of small group instruction in the library guided reading lessons, to 1:1 phonics support delivered by the well-trained Inclusion team. Academy staff receive guidance on how to support weaker readers in lessons through continuous professional development, allowing students to move forward in reading in all curriculum areas.