The Withernsea High School strategy
Factors such as social deprivation and rural isolation can exacerbate the already significant challenges faced by young people in developing good reading skills and levels of literacy seen across the national picture, as outlined by the facts and figures shown here. Our community, like many others, experiences pockets of these documented disadvantages.
At Withernsea High School, we know that the single biggest gift we can give to our students and community is the gift of literacy. Not only does it open up the spectrum of academic study and success, but it paves the way for future successes in adult life. Our Literacy Strategy places reading at its core.
We have a dedicated Literacy TA who provides in-lesson literacy support and also delivers a comprehensive programme of 1:1 and small group intervention, working on the key reading skills of decoding, fluency and comprehension.
Tutor Time Reading Programme (TTRP)
All students in Years 7 to 10 take part in an extensive Tutor Time Reading Programme (TTRP), which sees them reading engaging, challenging, diverse, current and classic literature with their form tutors three times per week. Books for the TTRP have been carefully curated to reflect a number of important requirements:
- to support, supplement and develop curriculum content. Our books have links to studies in English, Maths, Science, Art, Personal Development, Technology and PE.
- to reflect and highlight important social and cultural issues such as sexism, racism, homophobia, education, morality, mortality etc.
- to be diverse and inclusive so all members of our school community see themselves represented in literature.
- to provide examples of entertaining and engaging literature, both fiction and non-fiction.
- to expose our students to a wider variety of vocabulary.
Every year group also has a 'Barrington Stoke' book. These are shorter, simpler reads, aimed at dyslexic, struggling and reluctant readers. They're brilliant books - great stories, well told, around 120 pages so they're really pacy!
Some of the longer, more complex books (Becoming and Anne Frank) have reading guides to allow groups to skip ahead without losing the flow of the narrative and some books come with career linked reflective tasks to complete after reading.
A full list of the books our students will be reading across the year can be found here: Tutor Time Reading Programme
Ways to support reading at home
With the evidence on the impact of reading demonstrating how overwhelmingly important it is to ensure our students can read proficiently by the time they leave WHS, it is vitally important that we have home support in this too.
Please find below a number of strategies you can use at home to develop your child’s reading skills:
- find the time to read with and to your child – this only needs to be 10 minutes per day. This is absolutely the most important suggestion on this list. It will help you to know first-hand your child’s reading ability and attitude to reading. It will tell them you value reading. It will give you both time to spend together (so precious in these busy lives we have!). It will give your child an interested ear. It gives you an opportunity to praise and advise. It will also give you time to read!
- ask them about what they are reading during tutor time. Find out what the characters are like, what’s happened so far (recapping skills are important for reading comprehension), what they think might happen next, whether they are enjoying it or not (and why), what it is like in comparison to other things they’re reading about etc.
- buy them a book that you think is ‘too grown up for them’ – children often like to feel they are being trusted with something that is more grown up than they are! Choose carefully though!!
- talk to them about your own feelings about reading. Do you enjoy it? What are you currently reading? Do you wish you were better at reading? Why? How is reading important for your job? Etc…
- put the subtitles on when you watch TV. Studies have shown that this simply act can double your chances of becoming a good reader.
- invest in books – charity shops are treasure troves for cheap books, often selling at only 50p per book!
- join the local library and take short trips there together.
- subscribe to online book platforms like Audible, Borrow Box, Kindle etc – use technology to help your child feel reading is accessible for them. Audiobooks are a great way to get kids ‘reading’ without them needing a physical book in their hand (although this helps!).
Community Reading Volunteers
In an effort to help inspire reading for pleasure, as well as for learning, community volunteers are supporting students as they work to increase their reading abilities.
Volunteers assist students by listening to them read aloud – creating a purpose to read and a setting where they can receive help, support and encouragement.
Lead for Whole School Literacy and Reading, Laura Aldridge, said: “The main benefit of having someone there to listen to them is that it gives students the motivation and a purpose to read. This in turn helps make them more critically aware of how well they themselves are reading and helps to further develop our whole school reading culture.
I am grateful to our volunteers for their support of our students’ reading progress, which is central to their academic and wider achievement. We have already seen improved reading scores as a direct result of their time and effort.”
Commenting on her involvement, Sue Barrick, one of the school’s community volunteers, said: “I am finding it very rewarding and enjoyable. The students are responding very generously with their enthusiasm and attention and I am happy to be able to spend quality time with them. I would recommend anyone with any spare time to have a go at this very rewarding voluntary work.”
As the Community Reader scheme seeks to expand further, additional volunteers are now being sought to join the school’s ‘reading army’.
Anyone interested in becoming a Community Reader is welcome to contact Laura Aldridge via email at email@example.com to arrange an informal discussion.
Withernsea High School is committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, therefore all volunteers will be subject to an enhanced DBS disclosure.
Accelerated Reader (AR)
Accelerated Reader (AR) is a programme which tracks and monitors how much independent reading students are taking part in, and matches their reading ability up with a range of books that will maximise and accelerate their reading growth.
Once a student completes a book, they are expected to complete a short quiz, which reviews how well the student has understood the book they read. Quizzes allocate points and word counts to a students’ profile, which culminate over the year in prizes and competitions.
AR is linked to homework and, through the school's rewards system, will see students rewarded incrementally for their word counts.
Reading is the master skills of school (Quigley, 2020). It is a skill required in almost every subject across the curriculum at Withernsea High School, and much of what a student learns in each subject is communicated through materials the students read. Books, text books, worksheets, web pages, exam papers, even PowerPoint slides all contain written material that students NEED to be able to read and understand in order to learn new information, process it and apply it, in order to achieve the grades they deserve to move on to higher education and good employment.
Academic reading is the kind of reading that is important for each unique and individual subject. It varies from subject to subject, and as a result, students need to be explicitly taught how to read accurately in their different subject disciplines. At WHS, we are making a long term commitment to ensuring that teachers actively promote reading (both for learning and pleasure) within their subject areas. More importantly, we are also asking our teachers to ensure that time is spent in lessons working with and on reading skills, reading materials and reading strategies, so that students are practising these vital skills regularly, on a daily basis through their high school careers.