Holmer Lake Primary School implemented Cornerstones Love to Read in September 2015, following the introduction of the Cornerstones Curriculum earlier in the year. A trial in Year 6 proved to be so successful that Love to Read was subsequently rolled out across all of Key Stage 2.
Siân Deane, Headteacher at Holmer Lake Primary, invited us to visit the school to see how Love to Read has helped to improve reading at Holmer Lake. The full report of our visit can be found in the Case Studies section of our website. You can also watch the full video of our interviews with staff, parents and children below or click to view on YouTube.
A transcript of the video can be found below.
Holmer Lake – improving reading and increasing enjoyment with Love to Read
Interviews with headteacher, Siân Deane, Key Stage 2 and English Leader, Craig Wilkinson, class teachers, Meg Jones, Sean Pardy and Laura Cousins, and pupils from Years 3, 4 and 6.
Vision for improving reading
Craig Wilkinson: I think one of the initial drivers for taking Love to Read on was this notion that we’d be in a position where the children would have read 24 classic novels by the time they’ve finished Key Stage 2, and when I came to Holmer Lake and discussed that with Siân, we both felt really strongly about it, didn’t we? What a fantastic situation the children would be in, to go on to secondary school, and what a fantastic experience they will have then had as a result of that.
Siân Deane: And I think it was also the fact that Cornerstones Love to Read underpins the Cornerstones Curriculum, which we’d just embarked on, so it also gave a clear focus.
Meg Jones: I think the Cornerstones Curriculum makes things purposeful. The afternoon subjects are purposeful rather than just something that you’ve thought of as you went along.
Sean Pardy: Yeah, and I think it’s really, really clear now when it’s a lesson that is not Cornerstones. The children are sort of, ‘what’s this for?’
Meg Jones: They stand out don't they?
Initial response to Love to Read
Craig Wilkinson: The children feel very strongly about Love to Read. When we’ve collected Pupil Voice, some of the comments we’ve had from children is about how “it actually makes me want to come to school” so they don’t want to miss out on the next chapter or the next few pages.
Year 6 pupil: I’m really enjoying Love to Read because in our old reading session we weren’t allowed to read out loud and this is making us have better expression in our reading.
Craig Wilkinson: I think we were conscious that, maybe, in some classes the texts are too challenging, though the children have really risen to the challenge. The children aren’t put off by the complexity of the language – they respond really well to it, they really rise to the challenge, and I think sometimes, as practitioners we sometimes maybe underestimate the potential and the capacity of the children.
Improving children's reading experience
Sean Pardy: I'm teaching mixed ability so I’ve got Year 3/4 so my very able Year 3s with my less able Year 4s, sitting together, reading together, and helping each other out. I’ve got some children whose book band or book level is a long, long way away from the books that we’re reading but they’re getting to experience things at an appropriate interest level for them.
Siân Deane: Other children, who are very able readers, have learnt to appreciate that those children who perhaps haven’t got the fluency have got very, very good comprehension skills but also have got very good inference and deduction, which they may not have, so they may have one skill but not the other. They’re then able to contribute to the discussion and the comprehension during the actual teaching session, which they wouldn’t be able to do, and that has removed the reluctance and the barrier for their own individual reading so it’s fed into their own selection of books as well.
Sean Pardy: In terms of the different teaching strategies though, I think every single day I do the reading in a different way – so one day it’ll be names from the pot, another day we’ll be going round the tables, other days we might be doing a paired read, every now and then I’ll do a silent read as well.
Siân Deane: Everybody’s own pedagogy and philosophy, and passion, which I think comes through clearly from the teachers, is very evident, so not only will they have read 24 classics, they’ll have had it delivered to them by very different practitioners but with the same end goal of having that very high quality literature.
Year 4 pupil: Our teacher has lollipop sticks and it has everybody in our class’s name on and she wants us to get all involved so she picks out a lollipop stick and whoever’s name it is gets a chance to read, and it carries on.
Year 4 pupil: And they’ll only read once because after she’s picked it, she puts it on the table, and then at the end she puts it back in the pot so it’s ready for tomorrow so everybody can read again.
Craig Wilkinson: In terms of the impact on teachers’ own strategies or their own delivery of it, I think the Love to Read guide forms a scaffold, if you like, onto which teachers can hook their own tailoring of the book to their cohort or their class. It gives teachers a very quick overview of the text, and of the language features.
Impact of Love to Read
Laura Cousins: My children all now look forward to Love to Read, they all enjoy reading. When we say to them we’re finishing they're like “urghh”, as they want to read on to the next bit. And they use it in their English as well.
Year 4 pupil: We’ve worked on different books like The Indian in the Cupboard and Alice in Wonderland and we really enjoyed it because it gave us new ideas, like if we’re writing our very own story, it’s given us an idea of what words we could use and what facts we could use in our story.
Craig Wilkinson: Reading is a strength within the school when we look at the whole school data and in actual fact it’s evident that reading has improved, and we can actually pinpoint particular children as well where we think actually, this child has made accelerated progress as a result of their engagement.
Siân Deane: It had an impact on their independent reading so again that’s galvanised that enjoyment of reading, which was on a school development plan. That’s our main aim, is to develop a love and enjoyment of reading for pleasure.
Meg Jones: We went to the Mitchell’s Fold stone circle out by the Shropshire hills and I made them all lie down in the middle of the stone circle, looking up at the blue sky – thankfully – and we read a few pages of Stig of the Dump whilst we were there. That really helped the children to get a perspective of where the story was at in terms of the cave man and where he came from, and it was a really great base then to build everything else upon after that.
Laura Cousins: It’s the sense of achievement, like at the minute, we’re 128 pages in and it’s a short term and they’re going “we will get to finish the book?” and a couple of weeks ago they wouldn’t have wanted to read a 330 page book but now they want to keep reading to get to the end of the book.
Sean Pardy: Some of mine who did read at home before are reading more at home. It used to be one page or two pages; now they’re reading a chapter at home every night when they’re reading, rather than just one or two pages, and I think it’s because they’ve improved the stamina because we read for half an hour every day, and I imagine when they used to read at home it’d be for five minutes, quickly.
Siân Deane: In order for you to build up their confidence, they read a line each to get used to reading aloud. Now you can almost see children getting through a sizeable paragraph and would continue to read if you didn’t have to share it across the class.
Year 3 pupil: My favourite way of reading is probably when everyone gets a go. It helps the other children that aren’t as confident as us to start reading out more loud as well.
Siân Deane: And I think again children talk about having the confidence to read aloud so then if they’re going to be part of a debating society, or they’re going to be asked to talk about something or present something, they’ll be far more confident as individuals in their future as a result of that.