Fostering Positive Readers

The most critical element to ensuring competent and critical readers is to foster enthusiasm and a love of reading. At Ipswich Grammar, a number of motivational devices are utilised, both intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external rewards), which encourage the boys to maintain their regular reading practices. Similarly, it is critical that boys have a healthy attitude to reading modelled to them, even better if it is from a male role model, thus dispelling the old vestige that reading is for girls only.We look to recognise reading (attitudes, progress and excellence) in as many forums as possible to demonstrate its importance alongside other things often valued highly by boys such as sport.

Secondly, once boys love reading and read regularly, it is necessary to ensure that reading is not just treated as interpreting the characters and letters on the page. The process of word and sentence recognition amounts to nothing without understanding and comprehension. Therefore, it is important to discuss elements of texts which are read.

•Interpret the pictures, the covers.

•"What did the author want us to think of by saying that?”

•“Is that what the illustrator really meant?”

•Investigate the main idea.

•"Are there any messages in the story?"

•"Why did the character act like that?"

•"Does this remind you of anything from your life?”

The above examples work on three different levels of complexity (three-level guide). The first level is literal in which the boys can find the information stated almost word for word in the text.

The second level requires the boys to think hard and relate their own thoughts to the text, inferring the answer as a collaboration of information from the text and their own. This is inferential questioning. The final level of questioning requires the boys to apply their own knowledge almost entirely to the problem presented (applied questioning). Often we can neglect inferential questioning in favour of the easier literal type, reducing the amount of interpretation and critical analysis of the text.

Thirdly, success is most important. It is possible that, as parents in our desire for the best for our children, we can push our children too far too quickly without celebrating the little successes on the journey. If these successes go unrecognised, children are denied the opportunity to experience a sense of accomplishment and achievement; they may not understand how well they are learning and the progress that they are making, often glossing over an attainment as we focus further forward on the next small step. When we inadvertently do this, we can demoralise children who have worked incredibly hard… and so the cycle needs to continue to revolve:

Motivation leads to opportunities to develop comprehension which leads to achievements which, in turn, continues to motivate the child.

While there are many other skills inherent in reading, particularly the deconstruction of text into specific sentences, words and phonemes through which the skills of word recognition and sounding out can assist in the parroting of text, using these semantic or “meaning” clues best assists comprehension and meaning, and therefore enjoyment. These are the most critical skills which can be recommended initially, particularly for reticent readers.
Other ways to assist with word recognition involve making short games of determining and recognising words.

• Allow children to sound out word, determine what they think they are and then relate to picture cues;
• Place words on objects around the house, encouraging the boys to see the shape of the words every time they use or are in the proximity of the object.
• Place words on cards around the house indiscriminately and have the children search for them and collect as many as they recognise. Keep a tally of their best number recognised and challenge them to beat it tomorrow. (Don’t forget to relocate the cards first.)
• While washing up or driving in the car, ask the boys to look around for words which they recognise and keep a points chart. (Boys are incredibly competitive.)
• While doing these simple tasks such as driving to the shops or having a bath, ask the boys for another word similar to another (eg another word for “exhausted”). Other variations which help to increase vocabulary and an understanding of language include opposites and rhyming words.

Games are very popular and do not provide children with the feeling that work is being pushed onto them.

Ultimately, at Ipswich Grammar School, we look to work in partnership with parents and families to create an atmosphere which reading is valued and is a positive experience for all thus developing excellent habits and practices which will continue for years to come.

David Macknish
Head of Junior School