Newton-le-Willows Community High School - building a Reading Champions project having taken part in the WWE Reading Challenge
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This case study is taken from the reading events and groups section of Reading Champions. Read more case studies in this section
Newton-le-Willows Community High School, St Helens
Campbell Reid, an English teacher, explains how Newton-le-Willows Community High School in St Helens used the WWE Reading Challenge to start their Reading Champions project.
As I am charged with trying to raise the achievement of boys in our school, improving and celebrating reading skills is one of my top priorities. I chose to join Reading Champions because it seemed to provide a ready-made framework that we could apply to what we were already doing in school. The nominations process introduced an element of competition and a practical reward in the shape of the Reading Champions badge and certificate. It was also valuable that names were posted on the website as a visible sign of success.
The first activity that we took part in was the World Wrestling Entertainment Reading Challenge competition. This introduced staff to a hitherto unexplored area of sport, but for the boys it acted as a real motivator and was very much on their level. All those who took part automatically achieved bronze Reading Champion status. We decided that rather than going straight for gold we would try to encourage boys to see the nominations process as a ladder to climb. The badges and certificates were presented in a special assembly and the names of bronze Reading Champions were displayed in the English corridor.
As part of our activities we tried to provide positive role models to the pupils by photographing members of staff reading their favourite books and displaying them in the library. We also bought ‘boy-friendly’ books and displayed them in a separate area of the library so they were seen as being especially for the boys.
Members of staff who were photographed were nominated as bronze Reading Champions and, if anything, were more keen to get their badges and certificates than the pupils! Their names were also displayed in the English corridor.
What makes a reading champion?
We then tried to get all our staff nominating boys. The rationale behind Reading Champions was explained and examples were given of what made a Reading Champion:
- Is there a boy in your tutor group who reads during tutor time and shares and discusses his books?
- Is there a boy in your class who helps weaker pupils to read class-room materials?
- Is there a boy in your year group who acts as a reading buddy for younger pupils?
- Is there a boy in your class who has written an outstanding book review? This successfully drew in different staff rather than just the English department.
We also tried to widen the sort of pupils who were being nominated as it was important that the ‘lads’ should also be commended for their work. Staff were encouraged to explain their reason for nominating individual boys on a slip. For example Michael in Year 9 was nominated by his learning support assistant because “he reads like an angel”. Lots of pupils were keen to know who had nominated them and why.
Again badges and certificates were presented in assemblies. This also acted to jog staffs’ memories of boys who had done something in the past that they could be nominated for. For example some Year 11 boys were nominated for work they had done the year before, supporting Year 9 pupils with their SAT examinations.
We decided it was perfectly fair to reward achievement wherever we found it. We also used the newsletter, which is sent out every Friday, to continue to actively publicise reading, for example by sending a Fathers’ Day card out with suggestions as to how fathers could support their child’s reading. We continue to use Reading Champions to reward boys who take part in reading activities - the team who attended the recent Carnegie Prize Day have all been awarded silver Reading Champion status.
Our involvement in Reading Champions is certainly long term as we see the boys taking perhaps a year to gain their gold award. We feel that this is more meaningful than giving them out too easily. The visual impact of Reading Champions is all over school with resources from a range of sources: Boys into Books, Premiership footballer reviews of books and the National Literacy Trust’s wrestling/cricket/football ‘Champions read’ posters displayed in all areas, in particular along the PE corridor.
For the future, it is important that we keep revisiting the nominations process so that staff are reminded about it. We also need to find ways to bring fathers into school and are looking at links with our local rugby league clubs to facilitate this.
We are really excited about embedding our Reading Champions work.