So far, we've chosen two children to represent each class, one who is already an avid reader and one who isn't (yet). Hopefully being on the council will remedy that! They are all allowed to wear a 'Book Champion' badge around school, which will give the position some real status, and will be attending meetings every couple of weeks, as well as feeding back to their class regularly.
When we had our inaugural meeting last week, they were absolutely full of ideas and suggestions about how to get the other pupils, the staff and their parents reading more. They're planning to be in charge of organising and delivering book boxes to the playground at lunchtime so that pupils can read outside if they wish. They talked about developing the book area in each classroom and getting each class to focus on a Class Author every half-term, as well as having more say in selecting the books we borrow from our local school library service. There were also suggestions to roll out the Mystery Book idea across the whole school.
They council members were desperate to be given a reading display board in a prominent area in the school, over which they would have complete control. One of their first ideas for a display was to go and photograph staff reading their favourite books and then expand on our #mymumreads and #mydadreads initiatives by launching a #myvillagereads campaign. Hopefully that will involve more than wandering around the village and harassing the local butcher into holding up a copy of his daily newspaper.
A couple of them were also extremely keen to be 'reading experts' and share their book recommendations with children who are struggling to find anything they want to read, which could be very successful if introduced sensitively.
One of the areas I'd love to give them a real say in is organising future author visits. At the next meeting I'm planning to give them a shortlist of 3/4 authors and then ask them to go off and do some research into who they think would be popular for a whole school visit. I will also leave it up to them to publicise the visit, ensure that each class has access to some relevant books, etc. They were also very interested to find out if they were allowed any sort of budget to spend on certificates and prizes for reading and new books, comics and magazines.
The fact that they were so full of enthusiasm has given me confidence that the idea can be sustained throughout the year, even if some of the council members change. In my experience, a buzz about reading created by children has more impact than a buzz about reading created by adults and, to quote from the Literacy Trust's 2008 report, 'we can use the enthusiasm of the self-defined readers to encourage other readers to widen their choice of reading materials in creative and innovative ways.'
I'm looking forward to seeing how the School Reading Council develops over the coming months and will update this post at some point with a progress report. On a completely separate subject, this afternoon my youngest daughter (age 4) went upstairs and took all the books off her bookshelves. She then hid them under her bed and filled the shelves with her collection of princess tiaras. Her argument was that 'They look nicer!'. I think she's going to be quite a tough nut to crack with this whole reading business...