Building A School Reading Culture – Part 1 Getting Started
When I first started at my new school and new school library this year, something that the library team shared with me quite a few times was their disappointment with the culture towards reading at the school. They felt that the school had a poor reading culture. They couldn’t quite determine why or what was the cause. Leadership was generally supportive, the school library well staffed but with reduced funding compared to previous years. So why did it seem like the students didn’t enjoy reading?
When I mentioned it to my mentor and shared the sentiment that the school doesn’t have a good reading culture, she surprised me by asking “how do you know that?” It got me thinking about the things I saw and didn’t see, both in the library and around the school. I noticed the difference in attitudes towards reading compared to my previous schools. Loan statistics were far, far less. I didn’t see many high school students come into the library to browse and borrow. I rarely saw students reading in the library (and if they did they felt that they had to ask permission to do so). The collections were large, genrefied and well laid out. The library was cozy and comfortable, perfect for reading. When we asked staff and students what they were reading, they often cited a book they had purchased and shared with friends or an audiobook. We had great English teachers but only one regularly brought her class to the Library for reading time. Other subject departments were supportive of the library and regularly used the digital resources and teacher librarian expertise, but again didn’t have much use for the physical collections or library space. When I looked around the school I saw posters about various events, including those we held in the library, and the school holds both sporting and cultural whole school events, but we had to fight to run a Book Week event. But what does this all mean for our reading culture? Is this reflective of a good or poor culture? Can we even define a reading culture in such terms?
And so, I have started on a journey to a) determine what makes a good reading culture, b) measure and asses the culture and attitudes towards reading at my school, and c) in partnership with the library team and my mentor, put into place a plan to improve the reading culture at our school.
My first step, as suggested by my mentor Dr Kay Oddone and inspired by the fantastic post on her website Linking Learning, was to investigate culture and organisation culture change. Changing a culture, such as a reading culture, is not as simple as putting in place a few special events or changing things around in the school library. If we truly wanted to make a significant and lasting impact, we needed to assess the culture of the school and enact change. It would take effort and time, but I was determined to make this a priority.
I want to share my journey with you. This series will be spread over a large timeline. I’m just beginning my journey into changing our reading culture. I don’t know how it will end. Will we be able to make any different? Will we be able to tell? How will we share our success, if we have any?