Reading: A Gateway to New Worlds

by Jessica Barker

Jessica Barker, second in department for English, writes:

The importance of reading in education cannot be denied. Reading allows our students to acquire both knowledge and language, giving them the answers they need to succeed in exams, as well as the ability to communicate their own ideas in written responses. I believe, however, that reading gives our students much more than that.

Literary texts open gateways to new worlds and give us experiences that we otherwise would not have access to, they enrich our lives.

How else could we visit a school of witchcraft and wizardry? Solve murders with a real detective and his amusing sidekick? Or travel back in time to see what life was like in the Victorian workhouses, in stately homes or even the Wild West?

Unlike the medium of film or television, reading literature doesn’t just give us access to a presentation of the worlds – it allows us to see them through the eyes and mind of the narrator.

Literature allows us to understand things from a new and different perspective, a thought process that could be totally different to our own. Through reading books, we learn to build empathy, to become more accepting and to think outside of the constraints of our own mind.

The Accelerated Reader programme at Hull Trinity House Academy aims to help students delve into these other worlds and begin to build those skills, as well as encouraging them to develop a passion for reading. Students take a STAR Reader test at the beginning of each KS3 academic year which gives them a reading age and corresponding ZPD range, allowing them to select books that are challenging but not impossible.

Our Learning Resource Centre is stocked full of so many fantastic texts spanning multiple genres, students can spend time choosing the book that is just right for them.

Each week half an hour of their time in English will be dedicated solely to reading and quizzing – once students have read their book, they take a quiz on the AR system to check their comprehension of it. If they pass this quiz, they are awarded the word total it contained, so they can strive to become a Word Millionaire.

If they don’t pass the quiz, they work with our librarian, Mrs Horton, to select a different book that they will be more successful with. The programme is designed to get them reading a range of texts over the course of the year and for their reading age to increase.

Each student can set themselves a personal target and their class teacher, along with Mrs Horton, will set them a class target as well – a certain number of words that they should achieve by the end of each half-term. As long as they reach that target, their efforts will be celebrated with a party in the LRC during AR time!

Points really do mean prizes for us, and the boys are regularly given Amazon voucher codes, are called out onto Parade to be recognised by the whole school and can select prizes from the treat tub in lesson.

All students in years seven to nine take part in the programme and success comes from every single set. It is wonderful to see our students engaging with Accelerated Reader and not only improving their reading skills in preparation for their GCSE years but also developing a love for reading that will last them a lifetime.

‘Books are the plane and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey, they are home.’

Anna Quindlen