Many students are instructed to read, but do they enjoy the process of reading? Teachers at Shuqun Primary School and Fuhua Primary School aim to make reading both engaging and enjoyable for their students. They share the various tools and methods used to encourage students to read actively across all school levels and subjects.
Identifying the Gaps
English teachers Mdm Jasbir Kaur and Ms Nurdiana Bte Razeli found that their students were lacking in language competencies necessary for academic achievement. They realized that students’ poor English grades were a result of them not reading extensively.
Similarly, Chinese Language teachers Mr Ng Peng Hwee, Mdm Koh Ser Eng and Mdm Qin Mi from Fuhua Primary School (FPS) found that their students’ struggles in learning Chinese Language could be traced back to a lack of interest in reading Chinese books.
Reading for leisure has been shown to increase reading achievement scores, which correlates with language proficiency and overall academic achievement (Layne, 2009).
Previously, both schools had incorporated reading into the curriculum in the form of sustained silent reading sessions for their students. However, feeling more could be done to instil a passion for reading in students, the teachers began to explore new ways of motivating them to read.
Learning to Read Independently at Shuqun Primary School
When teachers of Shuqun Primary School (SQPS) got together to share their concerns about reading, it emerged that many were unsure on how to select interesting and age-appropriate books for students, and encourage them to read.
Nurdiana explains, “We tell the kids that they need to read, but do we know what exactly reading is? And what is ‘reading with purpose’?”
To ensure teachers are well-equipped to guide students, SQPS engaged an external consultant to conduct reading workshops for all teachers. Over the course of a year, they learned how to introduce different genres of books to students, select books for students with different reading abilities and set reading goals.
A weekly reading period is now scheduled during curriculum time to give students more reading time on top of their silent reading sessions. During these periods, students learn to select books independently and set their own reading goals.
“It’s not about putting a tick on a list, but about asking themselves what they want to achieve,” says Nurdiana.
“It’s not about putting a tick on a list, but about asking themselves what they want to achieve.”
– Nurdiana Razeli, on encouraging students to read on their own
Taking Classroom Reading to another Level
The classroom reading session is complemented by the LitPro programme that the school has adopted. It is an online software that measures students’ reading levels and then provides individual recommended reading lists based on those measurements and their reading interests to make reading experiences more comfortable and enjoyable.
The school also invites local authors to talk about their books. Jasbir recalls one parent who informed the school that her daughter was not reading when she first enrolled in Primary 1. However, her daughter started to read more often following the author’s visit.
“Her mother said her daughter enjoyed the author’s talk and read her whole series of books after,” shares Jasbir. “And now, because of her daughter’s reading habits, her son also started reading!”
Overall, results are promising: Students are reading more and also reading on their own. Many also explore book genres that they were not aware of previously, such as thrillers and non-fiction.
Creating a Reading Community in Fuhua Primary School
Working closely with the Educational Technology Division (ETD) from the Ministry of Education (MOE), teachers at FHPS implemented the Read & Share@MyBookShop programme in 2014. Started by eduLab, the programme for primary school students seeks to develop the interest and habit of reading Chinese books for leisure.
To help students develop a reading habit, every classroom has a mini library with books specifically chosen based on their reading abilities and interests. Reading time for them is allocated twice a week before lessons.
During these sessions, students take charge of their own reading instead of having their teacher assign them specific reading materials. They have the freedom to read any book that interests them without the pressure of having to finish one that might not appeal to them.
After independent reading, students work in pairs to discuss the books they have read. As they become more comfortable sharing their opinions, they move on to larger group discussion before presenting in front of their classmates through a “Book-talk”.
One of Ser Eng’s students who was initially very quiet slowly opened up after a few “Book-talk” sessions. “He became more vocal and was willing to share his thoughts with his classmates,” she explains. “Even though it’s just three to four lines about the story, I can see a change in the boy.”
To further encourage students to take ownership of their reading, each student receives a virtual bookstore to manage in an online portal called MyBookshop.
This online portal allows students to create book reports, read their friends’ reports or recommend a book to a friend in a fun and engaging virtual environment. They obtain virtual points that they can use to redeem virtual gifts such as decorations for their online bookstore for every activity they participate virtually.
Teachers also motivate them by providing advice on what to read or how to update their bookshop. Qin Mi says, “During lessons, we highlight some good reports and book recommendations by the students. When students see that their friends can do this, they may get motivated and continue reading.”
“When students see that their friends can do (good reports and book recommendations), they may get motivated and continue reading.”
– Qin Mi, Head of Department (Chinese Language) at Fuhua Primary School
Sustaining the Reading and Learning Momentum
With the initial success of their reading programme, Jasbir and her team at SQPS intend to continue building students’ reading abilities by equipping teachers with the skills needed to help students move up to higher reading levels in the LitPro programme.
Likewise, the teachers from FHPS also believe that teachers play an important role in encouraging students to read for leisure.
“I think we have to steer away from the idea of being too result-oriented if we really want to cultivate good reading habits,” Peng Hwee says. “By promoting leisure reading, we hope that students will automatically bring their books and read on their own.”
Access MyBookShop online platform at: http://mybookshop.sg/cos/o.x?c=/ca4_cbs/user&func=login
Find out more information about Read & Share@MyBookShop at: http://ictconnection.moe.edu.sg/ictconnection/slot/u200/iinpracticev2/lowres/Read%20&%20Share@MyBookShop_PG31-37_lr.pdf
Layne, S. L. (2009). Igniting a passion for reading: Successful strategies for building lifetime readers. Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers.
Scholastic. (2012). Overview of the LitPro programme. Retrieved from http://scholastic.asia/en/education/scholastic-literacy-pro and http://south-asia.scholastic.com/en/literacy-pro