At Roydon Primary, World Book Day is about so much more than simply donning a costume
Every day is book day at Roydon Primary Academy in Roydon, Essex. Five years ago, the school made a commitment to make literacy and reading a part of everything that happens there. While World Book Day used to be a simple dress-up day, it has been expanded and now takes place over a whole week, with book fairs, author visits, reading challenges and book swaps added to the agenda.
Each year takes on a different theme, with Shakespeare being the most recent. During the week, pupils took part in DEAR (‘drop everything and read’ sessions), created a whole-school performance of The Tempest, read with parents in class, swapped books with classmates and spent a day dressed as Shakespeare characters. A ‘book week challenge’ also saw pupils completing a series of tasks linked to reading, such as sharing a book with someone under the age of five and reading in bed.
In the past, the school has held bedtime reading sessions, with pupils attending in their pyjamas. It has also invited authors in to hold workshops, book readings and signings. This year, Y4 were keen to focus on Jennifer Killick’s Alex Sparrow books. Following an approach on Twitter, the author is now booked to spend time at Roydon on World Book Day.
Laura Spring, deputy headteacher and English lead, says, “Book Week is an opportunity to promote reading for pleasure across the school and to encourage pupils to read, read and read. The children always enjoy it and look forward to the activities that are happening.
It’s important for us to instil a love of reading in our pupils. While reading for pleasure happens every day in school, it’s nice to really celebrate the importance and enjoyment of reading in a big way.”
The school uses its book fair – hosted by Foyles Educational Children’s Books – to boost its own collection, using the percentage it receives off the back of sales. Teachers are given the opportunity to research up-and-coming authors to ensure that the titles in the school’s library demonstrate true variety.
“We are trying to create a whole reading for pleasure culture,” says Laura. “We want Roydon to live and breathe reading. We are getting there – children speak a lot about reading for pleasure and Book Week massively raises the profile of this and reminds everyone that reading is part of our culture. The fact that we make so much time for reading shows our children the importance we place on it.”
And it’s not just a hunch from Laura that this work is having an impact. Last year, the school’s reading results at the end of KS2 confirmed that 85% of the year group was achieving the national standard or better, with 23% working at greater depth.
Headteacher Michael Clark says, “A lot of the work we do around reading is about raising its profile in a modern world in which it has been overtaken by electronic devices and gaming as a source of pleasure. Even for the children who do not wish to read for pleasure, it’s about making them see that reading can be a fantastic experience. It is our job as a school to give them every single opportunity to access different types of text.”
To embed a reading culture in school, Laura has carried out lots of CPD training sessions with her team on encouraging reading wherever possible. Teachers are encouraged to show enthusiasm for reading and start conversations with pupils about what they are reading. They also take part in ‘share a story’ assemblies each week, where teachers read an excerpt or chapter from a book to draw children in.
Laura says, “Each class is read to every day, including Y6. That way, even if they’re not reading much at home, the children are always getting access to high-quality texts. It’s an enjoyable ten or 15 minutes per day where they can relax, lay their heads on the desk if they choose and just listen. When I’m reading to my class, I ask a couple of questions along the way, but try not to interrupt the text – it’s about the pleasure of a book. I always make time for it and they know it’s important. A fun dress-up day doesn’t share the whole message of reading. It should be a part of everything we do and making a bigger fuss about it makes it that much clearer to everyone.”