Reading Connects at Charles Dickens Primary School, London

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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

Charles Dickens Primary School, London

Reading Connects joint second place primary school of the year 2006/07

Ali Mawle, teacher, explains Charles Dickens Primary School’s enthusiasm for reading.


Celebrating reading

When we joined Reading Connects we began with the basic concept of talking about books more. In the staffroom we suggested great books in morning meetings and set up a book swapping box. With pupils, we made an effort to talk to them about books all over school – in the classroom, the corridors, the playground, the stairs, etc. Just by showing a genuine interest in reading and being able to recommend books to pupils has had a real impact and has got the whole school more excited about reading in general.

Reading role models

We identified a number of pupils in Years 1 and 2 who were behind in their reading and had little interest in it. We also found that there were a significant number of children in Years 5 and 6 who would benefit from helping the younger children. So we set up a reading partners scheme, pairing the children up and designating a time – 15 minutes, twice a week – for them to read together. This has worked with incredible success.

We ensure we have strong male reading role models for the pupils by regularly inviting in male authors, poets and storytellers.

Involving families and the community

Many of our parents find reading difficult and lack confidence in enjoying reading together with their children. We tried to come up with solutions to this problem.

As we replenish our library stock, we give the old books away for next to nothing on stalls in the playground after school. This way parents don’t have to come into the school building and are getting good quality books for their children at a small cost.

We introduced parents and children sessions after school, which we advertised by hiring actors as story characters to be in the playground at the end of the day, encouraging parents to join in.

We produced a professional DVD for parents, giving them practical advice and ideas on helping their children with reading (and numeracy). It answers common questions such as: what does my child learn at school? How can I help when I’m not sure how to? What can I do when I don’t have much time? It involved nearly all the teachers in the school, over 150 children, the cook, the business manager and premises officer, as well as 15 families. The families who were involved consequently became passionate spokespeople for reading and were keen to get further involved. We filmed the DVD not only at school but at the newsagents, the grocers, the local library and in pupils’ homes.

Many of our parents, 82 per cent, speak English as an additional language and many are not fluent readers in either their original language or English. We are therefore having the DVD translated into Bengali and Yoruba so more parents can access it.

School library

We started from a position of having a poor set of reading resources. We addressed this by setting up a new library, refurbishing and restocking our guided reading room. As well as books we introduced leaflets, cereal packets, adverts and subscriptions to magazines.

From September 2007, the library has been open before and after school every day, run entirely by willing parent volunteers. They received initial and on-going training on a termly basis. When volunteer parents leave we train new parents, all of those who have left have gone on to either further education or employment. So far trained 13 parents, and they are brilliant at spreading the reading bug among the other parents.

On Mondays we run a storytelling session for children in nursery and Reception and their parents/carers. The session is led by a teacher and a parent. The parent chooses a story from their own culture and the teacher gives the translation. This has been really popular and the library is packed every week. The children are really proud of their parents and it creates an atmosphere of celebration of the variety of languages and cultures among us.

We have appointed eight pupil librarians who work in the library at lunch time, on a rota. These posts are often sought after by both sexes and pupils are even prepared to give up football to be involved. Our library theme this year has been ‘the best’ – the best books, the best visitors, the best trips, etc.


Our reading results at key stage 2 have risen again. This year 92 per cent of children achieved Level 4 and above and 45 per cent achieved Level 5, compared with 27 per cent in 2006 and 19 per cent in 2005.

Boys accounted for 48 per cent of books borrowed from the library this year. The week-long school book fair took twice as much money this year than in the previous two years. Children are not embarrassed to walk around school with books in their hands and are queuing up to join our reading groups.

We intend to carry on with our successful schemes but repackage them in fresh ways for the new school year. We are developing a cross-phase reading group of keen readers who can take more responsibility for leading initiatives in school, such as reading recommendations, which we feel are key to prevent pupils from getting stuck in reading ruts.

We are building a story tent in the main hall which will be suspended from the ceiling so that it can be lowered and raised as need be. This will be used for regular storytelling and magical reading experiences. We are also constructing a ‘storytelling throne’ in the playground with various props attached for the children to develop their own imaginations and enjoyment of entering the story world.

External Links

Reading Connects website

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