I knew my previous class as readers extremely well, mainly because I'd been fortunate enough to have worked with them for almost two and a half years. I knew their favourite genres and authors, I had a clear picture of what their reading life was like outside school, I understood their views on the importance of reading and I was in a position where the children and I were able to make recommendations to each other based on our mutual knowledge of each other’s preferences (see previous post). Earlier in the year, they all moved on to secondary school and a new Deer Class appeared at my classroom door. I knew that, on the whole, they were fairly keen readers and I was aware of the class books that they'd read, but I knew barely anything about them as individual readers.
Without the luxury of having so much time this year, I thought that a quick way to help us get our 'reading relationship' up and running would be by getting them to complete a short reading survey. I looked online for examples, as well as at previous ones I'd carried out, and then created a survey which I felt would best suit our needs. I gave it to them on the first afternoon of term, and provided no guidance as to what I was looking for in their answers, how much detail I would like or what my own thoughts and preferences were. I wanted to have the most genuine picture of them as readers as I could. It was made clear that I would be reading all the surveys, that we would be discussing them further and that they would not be marked for spelling, etc. The children were then given as long as they needed to complete the questionnaire.
I then read through their completed questionnaires, looking for common themes, and recorded anything that stood out for each child (e.g. those who never read at home, those who hated being read aloud to, those who had devoured His Dark Materials). The results gave me several things to consider and act upon over the first few weeks:
- As a class, their knowledge of children's poets and poetry was almost non-existent (very few were aware of anyone apart from Michael Rosen!).
- Almost all of them wanted more time to 'just read' in class.
- Most enjoyed having stories read to them but didn't like it when the teacher 'stopped and asked us stuff all the time'.
The surveys reinforced the fact that every child and every class has a hugely different reading identity based on their previous experiences. Although I now have an overall view of them as individual readers, it doesn’t lessen the importance of continuing to develop this vital relationship. We will still be engaging in conversations about books and reading, both planned and spontaneous, at every opportunity and continuing with our daily reading time, class story, and so on. I have shared the survey format (below) with the other teachers in the school and encouraged them to adapt it for their own needs. We will be discussing common themes at a future staff meeting and assessing whether the RfP provision that we feel we’re providing is the same as the RfP provision that the children feel we’re providing.
(A more detailed write-up of this is available on the Open University Reading for Pleasure site:
Year 6 Reading Survey
Write down three books that you have read in the last year.
What is your favourite type of book (adventure, mystery, graphic novel, non-fiction, poetry, etc)?
Can you name any children’s authors?
Can you name any children’s poets?
Do you enjoy reading in school? Score between 1 (absolutely hate it) and 10 (absolutely love it).
Do you enjoy reading at home? Score between 1 (absolutely hate it) and 10 (absolutely love it).
Apart from books, do you read anything else at home or in school?
Are you a member of a local library?
Do you enjoy an adult reading you stories? Why?
How would you make reading more enjoyable in school?
I read because…
I would read more if…
My teacher is a reader (true/false)
Moorlands is a reading school (true/false)
Reading is cool (true/false)
Tell me two interesting facts about you as a reader (eg Mr Biddle loves reading books about cricket; Mr Biddle enjoys Fighting Fantasy adventure books where you get to choose what happens next)
Draw a picture which tells me something about you as a reader.