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Farshore Reading for Pleasure Teacher Award winners

The winners of The Farshore Reading for Pleasure Teacher Award 2021, in association with the Open University and the UK Literacy Association (UKLA), have been announced, revealing how teachers have found innovative ways to inspire reading for pleasure in the classroom.

Each year since its launch in 2017, the award has shown the determination and passion of teachers to get kids reading, but the teachers who entered the 2021 awards showed inventiveness on a never-seen-before scale as they tackled multiple lockdowns.
This year’s entries saw teachers at schools across the UK, from Exeter to South Lanarkshire, united in a mission to get kids, and their families, reading despite the disruption caused by the pandemic. Read on to find out the winners of the four categories.

Whole School Award: Jon Biddle (Moorlands Church of England Primary Academy, Great Yarmouth) and Laura Atkinson (Lapal Primary School, West Midlands)

Community Reading Champion Award: Jenny Holder (Liverpool Learning Partnership, Liverpool) and Jill Queen (Netherburn Primary School, South Lanarkshire).

Experienced Teacher Award: Georgie Lax (Starcross Primary School, Devon).

Early Career Teacher Award: Phoebe Lawton (The Wilmslow Academy, Cheshire).

Highly Commended Experienced Teacher: Mary Jenkinson (St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, South Yorkshire) and Cathie Whiting, Deb Johnson and Sharon Ealing (Coleshill Heath School, Birmingham).

Highly Commended Whole School: Craig Clarke (Lea Forest Primary Academy, Birmingham).As schools reopened, teachers used reading as a comforting way to welcome children back to the classroom and bring the school community together again. Mary Jenkinson (St Joseph’s, South Yorkshire) invited families for socially distanced after-school tea parties with story times and on the first week back at school Phoebe Lawton (The Wilmslow Academy, Cheshire) picked one book for a whole school project, to bring the children back together as readers.

Georgie Lax (Starcross Primary School, Devon) introduced new collections of ‘funnies and feelies’ with books that are perfect for easing children’s worries. Research shows that reading can have a hugely positive impact on a child’s wellbeing, so reading for pleasure became more important than ever to reassure children throughout the pandemic. One pupil at Netherburn Primary School said, “If I feel stressed during the day, I go to book club and feel better.”

Teachers also got inventive throughout school closures to get parents reading too. Jon Biddle (Moorlands Primary Academy, Great Yarmouth) opened the school library twice a week during lockdown, creating a ‘Parents Book Box’ for parents to borrow books for themselves too and become reading role models for their children. Jill Queen (Netherburn Primary, South Lanarkshire) launched a community lending library to encourage the parents, carers and people of Netherburn to read more, following a survey revealing that very few children saw their parents reading at home.

These imaginative new approaches have helped to build communities of readers by involving parents and establishing reading for pleasure as a joyful and regular occurrence at home, which is a vital component in helping children love reading (1).

Alison David, Consumer Insight Director at Farshore said “Teachers play such an important part in getting children to read for pleasure. They have a difficult task, which is to both teach children to read and to motivate them to read for pleasure. Many parents don’t read to their children at home very often, if at all. In 2012, an average of 41% of 0-13s were read to daily/ nearly every day, and in 2020 31%. As a result, children often don’t appreciate that reading can be so pleasurable for them. The work these teachers have done is truly inspirational, both engaging with parents and treading the line so well between teaching the skill to read and helping children find the will to read.”

Lockdowns have also seen teachers take innovative approaches to classroom story time, with many of the winning teachers incorporating story times over digital platforms as part of their reading for pleasure. Phoebe Lawton (The Wilmslow Academy, Cheshire) introduced a series of ‘Who’s Reading?’ videos where a staff member would read a story each week and families could watch together at home, and ‘Read Aloud Time’ where children heard a story being read aloud each day and could vote on the book they’d like to hear.

Once schools reopened, Deb Johnson, Cathie Whiting and Sharon Ealing (Coleshill Heath School) launched a reading role models initiative where older children in Year 4 volunteered to read to children in Nursery. It built the Year 4 children’s confidence in reading aloud and their love for reading has inspired the Nursery children to become readers themselves. At the end of the project, the Year 4 children received a letter from Nursery giving them feedback, which they loved receiving. Callum (Year 4) said, “Mum, look at my letter. Nursery thought we were really good.”

Being read to has been proven to be one of the most powerful ways to inspire reading for pleasure. For 8-13s, if they are read to daily or nearly every day they are twice as likely to read independently for pleasure than if they are read to just weekly.

Teresa Cremin, Professor of Education (Literacy) at The Open University, said “These awards showcase the brilliant work that teachers are doing to build the habit of reading in childhood. The vibrant reading communities built within and beyond their schools help children sustain this important habit which, as the government’s Reading Framework (DfE, 2021) highlights, makes a real impact on their learning.”

(1) Nielsen’s: Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer 2012 and 2020.