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‘Summer Reads’: a reading project to enhance the Year 6 transition to Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School Academy (QEGS) in Ashbourne

About our school

Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School Academy (QEGS) in Ashbourne, Derbyshire is part of a Multi-Academy Trust. Our School’s vision – ‘To provide a world-class education for ALL students at QEGS’ - is based on our values: QUESTION; EXPLORE; GIVE; SUCCEED. The School works hard to make the transition from primary education as smooth and enjoyable as possible. The Library always endeavours to be closely involved in the life of the School, providing support to students, teaching staff and parents which reaches well beyond its doors. 

Aims

Studies show that, on average, a child’s reading age can decline by three months during the long summer holiday, simply because they may not feel incentivised to read. Access to reading materials is also consistently identified as a vital element in enhancing the reading development of children. Our aims were:

- To continue, and build on, the reading ethos of primary school;

- To entertain and educate during the holiday period, and encourage parents to read with their child(ren) and become involved in our competitions;

- To develop activities to introduce, and instil a good ‘vibe’ about, the Library, connecting with new students to begin a positive relationship which can continue throughout their years in School;

- To put a focus on reading for pleasure, emphasising that books can be fun. 


Timescale

I was first approached about the challenge at the end of May, 2018. I knew that we had a session with the visiting Year 6 students on the first Transition Day at the beginning of July. The aim was to have the books and all the resources ready for the children to make their selection on that visit - in only five weeks’ time. We then had less than three weeks after that to collate the book order, take delivery, sort and distribute the books to the relevant primary schools before the summer holidays began.

Outline

(Images to accompany this case study are on the attached pdf.)

Getting Started It was very important to me that the books be appealing to the students; I wanted them to be texts they would really enjoy reading (not unlike the holiday reads recommended to adults). It was important to have relatively new titles they may not have seen before, and a good range to suit all abilities and tastes, being aware that some students would already be avid readers. 

Contact with several of the feeder primary schools involved elicited an overview of the books currently being read by the students, to give a picture of their level of ability. I also consulted a wide range of reading websites for recommendations and suggestions.

I eventually decided on 12 titles, the varied content of which I felt would appeal to differing tastes and interests; in essence, my aim was to provide ‘something for everyone’ (Image 1).

I had already approached our local bookshop, Scarthin Books, to check that the delivery timeline was feasible and to negotiate a discount. I gave them a list of the books selected and asked if they would check with their supplier that they were all available to order multiple copies; any titles that were not had to be rejected and a new title selected.

I began by ordering four copies of each of the titles to use as samples to show the children, and asked some of our keen Year 7 readers to review the chosen books.

One of our very talented Year 12 students designed a Summer-themed bookmark for the challenge; there are four different designs, all of which could also be coloured in to personalise them to the student (Image 2).

Communication I designed a guide booklet to be sent with each book, the reverse of which explained the reading challenge and offered the chance to win rewards and prizes for a student’s reading endeavours. A letter was also sent to parents and carers to promote the Project, conveying the following key message: ‘…we hope this project will be a great encouragement to all children, inspiring a love of reading for pleasure, firing their imagination and, importantly, improving their ability to understand and interpret the written word across all areas of the school curriculum.’

The Competitions
REVIEW COMPETITION – We asked the children to take the time to write a short review of their chosen book. 
PHOTO COMPETITION – A space was provided for a photo of the student reading in an unusual place: the weirder, the better.

Each competition entry was rewarded with a small tub of pencil crayons. Bigger prizes and certificates were awarded to the most thoughtful and original efforts (Image 3).

The First Transition Day at QEGS- the children get to choose
Each visiting group of children were shown a Power Point presentation which gave a brief synopsis of each book to help them make their choice. Our Year 7 readers said a few words about books from the selection which they had enjoyed; this was intended to bring the books to life and build a connection with the new School and existing Year 7 students, to provide reassurance and, hopefully, engender enthusiasm.

All the book samples were spread out on tables for the children to peruse. The tables were manned by our Year 7 readers who had already read the books and so were able to answer questions about them. After about thirty minutes the children were asked to write their book choice in the space provided on the bookmark they had been given. The bookmarks were then collected in and used to collate the book order.

Impact

- The children were very excited about choosing a free book;

- There have been positive comments from parents/carers about the Summer Reads Challenge:

'As the parent of a reluctant reader, I felt the challenge was achievable and I am pleased to say it kept him reading through the summer.'

'I believe the Summer Reads Challenge was an excellent idea. My daughter has dyslexia so it is really important that she enjoys reading by accessing different types of books.'

'Thank you for providing the opportunity for my daughter to explore new fiction. The challenge has encouraged her to read and she has really enjoyed the book and wants to read more.'

'All positive! I think it is great that my daughter instantly was very engaged with this project. She loved the book she chose and set about reading and reviewing the book with enthusiasm. We liked the twist of taking a picture reading the book in a strange place. Great start to high school!'

.Great idea! Even better with the added opportunity to earn treats. Incentives definitely work: especially for those children who don’t particularly enjoy reading.' 

'Brilliant! The choice of books was really good, My son found one he really wanted to read and enjoy, and the challenge to read it somewhere unusual was really fun. What an amazing programme!' 

'My son really enjoyed the book and it was a great opportunity to keep him away from ‘electronics’ . Thank you.'

- Feedback suggests students see the Library as a useful and exciting place which is also fun!

- The students were very keen to choose the second book they were promised for the new school term. Once the books were chosen and ordered they were constantly asking when the books would arrive.

- Since joining QEGS many have continued reading other titles in the series of book they chose;

The photographs of the children reading in ‘weird and wonderful places’ have created a great display on the School corridor for all to see (Image 4).

Next steps

Since the children started at QEGS in September they have attended a Library lesson once a fortnight. The lessons aim to introduce the library resources, teach library and research skills and promote reading for pleasure.

We asked the students to read their book before the lessons started in September so that we could use them for book-related activities. We have since based activities on genres, book characters, review writing and designing book covers and bookmarks;

We continued with the programme by giving the students a second book once they had joined QEGS, via the Book Trust Bookbuzz scheme. The books are chosen and supplied by the Book Trust along with many and varied activities involving the books, including yet more competitions to enter.

The Library has applied for funding through QEGS Friends Parent Teacher Association to run the scheme again.

Out of the seventy-three responses we received only four people had less than complimentary things to say, the main concern being that six weeks was not long enough to finish a book and that holidays are too busy for reading. If we were lucky enough to be able to run the programme again I would choose shorter books – and include some with a higher level of content for more able readers. 

Contributor

Jennifer Roper – Librarian, Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School Academy (QEGS), Ashbourne, Derbyshire

roper@queenelizabeths.derbyshire.sch.uk

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