The Reading Realm Blog Series: Educators doing extraordinary things
Lauren is a Year 6 teacher and SENCo. Here she talks about the impact an Open University ‘Reading for Pleasure’ conference has had on her school, her earliest memories of reading, Shaun Tan and reading in the Maldives…
Name: Lauren Brown
What is your current position?
Year 6 Teacher/SENCo
When, how and why did you get into education?
Honestly….10. years ago I trained to be a teacher as I was unsure about what I wanted to do in life after graduation! I knew I loved working with young people as part time jobs (clubs etc) so thought I would give teaching a try….. Fell in love with the job and haven’t looked back since!
Becoming SENCo was another step that became available through chance and is something I’m so glad I’ve done – I’ve learnt so much and now help to ensure the best support is in place for all children in my school.
What did/do you want to achieve in your role?
To give children a decent and supportive start in their journey through education.
How do you feel the education landscape has changed since you started in your role?
Far more demands on the children at a lower age, which in turn leads to more pressure at the end of Key Stages. There doesn’t seem to be enough time to teach all that needs to be taught. Luckily, I enjoy teaching Grammar!
What are your earliest memories of reading and writing?
I remember my mum reading to me when I was very small and me always demanding another Thomas the Tank Engine story. As a child of the same age as the ones I teach now, I remember being obsessed with The Babysitter Club, Goosebumps and Point Horror, wanting to collect as many as possible! I used to write story after story in old notebooks and make ‘books’ for my mum! Also, diaries with locks!
How do you try and foster a love of reading in children?
We talk about books in class, quite informally and I try to show the children that I read a range of genres. We ‘read for pleasure’ three times a week with pillows, beanbags and fleeces to get comfortable around the class. The children can share books during this time or read quietly. I also get comfortable and read a book during this time! I love it! This dedicated time has come through having the Open University RfP conference at our school.
When choosing our class book that I read aloud, I try to give them a say in the decision too.
What has been your most successful reading or writing lesson or activity with children?
Recently, we have been focusing a lot of our time on vocabulary and our understanding of it, as this is often where the children stumble with the comprehension of texts. A lot involves simply talking around all the texts we encounter to decipher meaning and we’ve created a class dictionary of new vocabulary. I’ve noticed a lot of the new vocabulary appear in writing but also, children seem more confident when trying to guess vocabulary meaning by looking for clues elsewhere.
I have to say though that our dedicated ‘reading for pleasure’ and ‘writing for pleasure’ sessions have been the most successful activity of late, with children who previously ‘hated’ reading or writing, asking to do it in their spare time (Golden time, lunchtime etc).
What advice would you give to parents whose children say they don’t like reading?
Get the children to think about all the things that they do read during the day without realising or indeed things they may enjoy (online/tablets etc). Once they realise that there are plenty of things they do read, look at types of text they might not have considered to be ‘reading’ – picture books (even for older children – Shaun Tan) comics, annuals, newspapers, magazines etc and go from there, encouraging small steps.
Also, think about how they model reading – do their children see them reading? Do they discuss things (even articles from social media!) that they have read that day?
What books do you remember from your childhood?
Too many to list! I loved reading! See above but also Michael Morpurgo, Road Dahl, Phillip Pullman, Terry Deary, JRR Tolkien, Charlotte’s Web, Goodnight Mr Tom, Tom’s Midnight Garden, Beatrix Potter, Stig of the Dump, The Naughtiest Girl collection by Enid Blyton!
Do you have a favourite?
Why the Whales Came by Michael Morpurgo has always stayed in my mind since primary school. I loved the whole mystery of the Birdman and the isolated settings. Must re-read it!
What was the first book that made you cry?
I can remember being very upset at the end of The Amber Spyglass, the final in the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman, which I have read many times!
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
I really wasn’t a fan of J K Rowling when I first read Harry Potter but it has grown on me since the start of the series. Still not a favourite though.
What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
People (adults) seem to mock the Twilight trilogy, but I am not ashamed to say, I enjoyed it! I thought the very end was a clever twist!
Have you ever experienced reader’s block?
Absolutely, I’ll often give up on a book I’m not enjoying, but usually find something new straight away. I try to read every night before sleeping to de-stress, but don’t always manage to.
Are you drawn to a particular genre or type of book or do you read a variety of genres?
Thrillers/Mystery and Fantasy mainly. My friend is a romance author so recently I have started reading this genre and actually really enjoy it!
What book are you currently reading?
In school: Holes by Louis Sachar.
Aloud to class: Secrets of a Sun King by Emma Carroll.
At home: Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies by various contributors.
Where’s your favourite place to read?
Ever?! The deck of our water-bungalow in the Maldives!! Sadly, that was only for 10 days and is unlikely to ever happen again!
Normally, in bed with a cuppa!
Which books do you think have tackled the issues of diversity and difference particularly well?
I love There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom. It’s a really fantastic book to encourage children to think about the behaviour of others and why they might behave in such a way.
Wonder by RJ Palacio is also a fantastic book for the topic of difference and children are often shocked by some of the bullying content, but it certainly gets them thinking and discussing the issues!
Which three books would you recommend to primary/ secondary school aged children and why?
The Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell. I love Paris so I enjoyed that aspect but it’s a very different sort of adventure story with fantastic description and characters – orphans, eccentric old men and rooftop dwellers. Haven’t read another book quite like it!
Secrets of a Sun King by Emma Carroll. I haven’t read any of her books before this but the history aspect is great as well as the adventure so would interest children who like history in particular. I now want to read more of her work. (The Roman Mystery collection by Caroline Lawrence is also good for historical adventure).
The Arrival by Shaun Tan. A dark and mysterious picture book that can allow your imagination to run wild. Children in my class have written their own versions of parts of the story in their spare time for fun. Boys especially have loved it.
Finally: in one sentence, what does reading for pleasure mean to you?
It means having the chance to read what you want, comfortably and chat about books with those around you, without pressure or demands placed, purely for enjoyment!