Innovative ways to promote reading in school- Werneth School

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This case study is taken from the reading events and groups section of Reading Connects. Read more case studies in this section

Werneth School, Stockport

Werneth School, winner of Reading Connects secondary school of the year 2006/7
Reading Connects secondary school of the year 2006/07

Sally Westrope, literacy coordinator, and Nikki Heath, school librarian, explain the innovative ways they have promoted reading in their school.


Making time for reading and raising its profile

We have managed to raise the profile of reading dramatically throughout the school. Previously, reading was not seen as a ‘cool’ thing to do. We had to raise its profile in a credible way using technology and terminology that our pupils value, without becoming seen as ‘teachers trying to be cool’. For example, we used popular staff as positive reading role models, asking them about their favourite books on camera. We have also used images and film of pupils in presentations set to music that pupils recognise which we show on plasma screens during assembly. Making ‘celebrities’ out of them has had a huge impact.

Our pupils now expect to be seen reading around the school and don’t associate reading with being a ‘geek’. Pupils are much more likely to raise reading as being an area for concern, improvement or achievement through pupil voice activities.

All pupils now read during form time using in-house reading passports and book boxes provided by our local School Library Service. This is linked to our school rewards system and pupils can earn points at the school shop through reading passports and the library loyalty card. We make sure that our English staff are given each pupils’ library loans record prior to parents’ evening so that reading for pleasure becomes a key part of the discussion of success and progress.

All form groups read together once a week and we also operate school-wide ‘Drop Everything And Read’ (DEAR) time, at the sound of a designated bell everyone in school, including administration, caretaking and kitchen staff, stop to read for pleasure for 20 minutes. The reading is filmed and photographed and used in a ‘Get Caught Reading’ scheme. Every week someone who has been caught reading is randomly selected to receive a £10 voucher. We ensure that those selected are a range of age, ability, gender and degree of perceived popularity so that we are sending out strong messages about people who read.

We wanted to send the message that Werneth reads and we used National Children’s Book Week to tell the world. We started by asking each form to vote for their favourite childhood book. We then got them to write the name of the book on a piece of paper, which was rolled up and put into a balloon. We filled all the balloons up with helium and then paraded them through the school at lunchtime. On the way to the playground we managed to collect lots of interested pupils. With 600 pupils and staff watching, we released the balloons amidst lots of excitement. We suspect the wind that day may have taken the balloons out to sea but we are still waiting to receive contact from anyone who may have found one of them.


We organise regular competitions to promote cross-school literacy skills linked to sporting events. For example, the World Cup Challenge and our Formula One Challenge. During the World Cup Challenge, library loans for June and July, usually our quietest months, went up 25 per cent. Each summer we ask pupils to take a photo of themselves reading in the most amusing or unusual setting – the 2006 winner was snapped on top of Snowdon!

Using sport

Using sport as a hook has been vital in motivating and capturing the interest of our pupils, and in particular the boys. These projects are always active and involve pupils travelling around the school to compete which creates a sense of fun and excitement in school.

We recently established a mentoring reading scheme – Fit4Reading - linked to sport and supported by Stockport County Football Club. Pupils from Year 10 meet with designated Year 7 pupils to play sport for 20 minutes, have a free breakfast, and then read for 20 minutes once a week before school.

The school library

Our library is extremely busy. We hold a weekly ‘Rave Readers’ book club for pupils to meet, review and discuss books. For World Book Day we got the pupils to line the school corridors with books end to end. We hold a termly book fair and every year we play a big role in the Stockport Book Award ceremony.

Author visits are organized whenever possible and all pupils in Year 7 and 8 have library lessons every two weeks to develop their literacy and research skills. The pupil librarian scheme is massively oversubscribed. Since 2004, loans have risen dramatically; 10,000 in 2006/07 compared to 6,000 loans in 2004/05.

Christmas 2006 saw our most popular initiative, Mystery Christmas. Pupils borrowed mystery gift-wrapped books that they pledged to read over their holidays. In this way we were able to introduce them to new genres. We achieved record loans during this period with a peak of 2,041 loans in one month!

Getting colleagues on board

All our staff have developed a high regard for the impact that reading for pleasure has had on our pupils’ attainment. This was initially fostered through a short INSET led by the literacy coordinator which used published evidence as well as real examples to show that ‘reading may be one of the most effective ways to leverage social change’.

Standards have risen in the school overall and we have had a 12 per cent increase in pupils achieving five GCSE’s grade A*-C in 2006/07. Our ideas are frequently shared as examples of best practice with our local authority and further afield.

We have had the full support of our headteacher and the school leadership team, and the governors approved almost the whole year’s literacy budget to be spent on raising the profile of reading. Because reading has been so actively prioritised it has made it easier for us to embed our future initiatives.

External Links

Reading Connects website

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