Having won the 2019 First Minister’s Reading Challenge Reading Inspiration Award, West Lothian’s Whitburn Academy was no stranger to showcasing its reading endeavours and promoting good practice, but Reading Schools gave staff and learners a new focus.
What struck Whitburn during the self-evaluation and planning process was its absence of community engagement and the need to be reading ambassadors not only in their school but also in their local area.
Having drawn up a solid action plan, they decided to pay particular attention to strengthening their community activities and paying forward a love of reading.
First and foremost was the creation of Whitburn’s Reading Committee, whose 21 members would include learners, teachers, support and library staff, parents and carers.
Reading for pleasure: A whole school ethos
Both learners and staff at Whitburn Academy worked tirelessly on their Reading Schools journey, determined to close their literacy attainment gap and achieve Gold accreditation. Key to this success has been the relationship between the classroom and the school library, where a love of reading has not only been fostered, but infectiously grown and promoted across every part of the academy thanks to their trailblazing staff team.
A whole school buy-in and absolute commitment, together with driven and enthusiastic players, paved the way for several fantastic initiatives, including:
- The design and creation of three key reading spaces in the school
- Introducing reading to existing projects like the breakfast club
- Mainstreaming personal reading time during language lessons
- Ensuring regular cross curricular book projects and celebrations throughout the academic year
Engaging with the community
Whitburn developed a partnership with Whitdale Care Home, where learners’ weekly visits would leave a lasting impression on both the staff and the residents. Sharing a love of reading and personal stories, a strong and meaningful relationship developed, resulting in a richly rewarding experience for the S6 learners involved.
'Working with the residents at the care home was a very heart-warming experience, we bonded over the stories from their childhoods and learned so much history about our town from first hand sources'
Learners also used podcasts to share reading with the public by creating weekly ‘All About The Books’ recordings and sharing them through the school’s Twitter feed. Together with school staff they also recorded an accompanying music video, role modelling reading for pleasure and proudly proclaiming an unfaltering love of books.
Role modelling also played a key part in Whitburn’s partnership with neighbouring Whitdale primary school, seeing senior classes reading to P5 and P6 pupils with additional support needs during their weekly visits.
'It is a great partnership between the schools and the pupils are benefitting so much'
By maximising their use of social media, Whitburn promoted reading for pleasure and their ongoing achievements, making them visible across the community and showing their positive impacts.
'There has been a marked engagement in reading across the school, as well as better links with families and the local community'
Reaping the rewards
Data collected throughout Whitburn’s journey demonstrates the success of their efforts. From their reading intervention groups, learners gained an average of 2 years and 7 months on their reading age over a 7-month period.
Attitudes towards reading shifted dramatically too. In just 6 months enjoyment of reading increased by 70%, with an almost 60% increase in leaners continuing their reading for pleasure at home.
In 2020 Whitburn Academy became our first Gold accredited Reading School, setting a high but inspiring benchmark and showing what can be achieved with robust partnerships, a positive attitude and steely determination.
'At Whitburn Academy, we thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the Reading Schools initiative. It helped us to develop our literacy strategy in the school and has brought benefits, both in terms of pupil engagement and attainment'
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