Book title: Reading for Pleasure: A Passport to Everywhere
Author: Kenny Pieper
Publication date: 2016
1. What is your overall impression of the book?
How to convey the importance of reading to children is an area of much debate. How do we, as educators, demonstrate that there is inherent value in the enjoyment of picking up and losing yourself in a book, as opposed to feeling you simply need to pass a test?
There is no magic pill that can make a child love reading. In his book, however, Pieper shares – in light-hearted but clear detail – the many tips, tools and devices he has used during his career as an English teacher. These are simple steps that teachers can take to give children the freedom to choose a good book and support them with the skills to do so, and then create an environment and atmosphere where children want to pick up their book at every opportunity.
He interweaves his advice and techniques with anecdotes and funny tales of his time teaching, meaning his work feels less like an academic book as much as joyful jaunt through one man’s time wrestling teenagers towards Shakespeare.
2. Who do you think would benefit most from reading the book? What will they learn?
Anyone concerned with or connected to reading and how to develop a love of it in children should read this book. Though I think this book is specifically targeted at secondary teachers like Pieper himself, as a primary school teacher, I have taken lots of practical tips and ideas, implemented many of his suggestions and have passed on recommendations and advice to friends.
Librarians – as well as teachers – should also look on this book as a wakeup call of sorts. It is a call to arms for those who have seen school libraries suffer at the more glamourous hands of ICT suites, becoming rooms in which learning happens, rather than the hive of the reading world in schools.
3. What did you think about the quality of the writing? Please consider the tone, structure and ideas. Does it suit the audience?
The chatty, staffroom style tone of the book makes the reader feel welcome – it reads more like a conversation across a cup of coffee than a dive into the deep and dusty annals of academic theory.
Teachers, largely this book’s target audience, will at times need to pore over detailed research papers (or summaries, at least) – and rightly so. When it comes to reading for pleasure, however, I think it is important for teachers not to feel like they are being talked down to. Pieper readily acknowledges that many of his ideas are probably already being done across the country, but the fast-paced, informal and dip-in-and-out style of the book makes it enjoyable and easy to digest.
4. Please discuss the research used to underpin the ideas. What evidence does the author use? Is it robust and up-to-date?
This book is based on Pieper’s 15 years as a secondary English teacher and techniques he has seen peers use. Rather than being an analysis of data or new findings, it is more of a friendly guide to things that have worked and suggestions as to how they may work for you too. Though he does not claim his techniques are scientifically proven, he does reference projects like the Read On.Get On campaign and the works of numerous academics including Donalyn Miller.
5. What did you learn from reading the book? What ideas/approaches/practice will you change or adopt as a result of reading this book?
I began post-it noting pages I wished to return to when reading this book – just ideas, tips and suggestions I could try. Once I closed the relatively short copy, it resembled some sort of colourful hedgehog because there were so many, the majority of which I now use.
Pieper openly invites you to adapt and change his suggestions, though the ones I have used have largely remained as he outlines. He does, however, warn you against finding excuses not to try stuff. There will always be an excuse not to do something – don’t give into them.
Small tips – for example giving the children a fixed, daily slot of 10 minutes for reading – have transformed my practice. At the beginning of a lesson everyone reads for 10 minutes – teacher, teaching assistant (if available), everyone. Without question. By enshrining this time together it helps promote the idea of the value of reading and its place in the timetable; reading is no longer the preserve of ‘if you’ve finished just read’. If we want our learners to become lifelong readers we must give reading more status than that.
Pieper even names specific authors and books that he has found have worked well with reluctant readers or those who struggle to read. These writers, such as Marcus Sedgwick, I had already come across but I hadn’t specifically thought about how I was using my knowledge of authors to help specific children.
Perhaps a more a long-term suggestion of Pieper’s is to create movie trailers for books. Give your children the freedom to create their own Hollywood style promo for their favourite book from the year or the previous term. Admittedly this may impact on other learning time but the whole point is about giving reading and books the gravitas they deserve.
6. Could you share a quote from the book that particularly resonated with you?
‘We need to step up and be their reading mentors, getting involved in their lives or at least be the ones who will properly encourage them to turn the key. It won’t happen by accident; it won’t happen if we just leave them to it.’