Magenta Sings the Blues
by Echo Freer

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The introduction by Alec Williams provides lots of handy tips on getting everyone reading!


1. Everyone's Reading?

Surely this is an over-optimistic title? ‘If only they were!’, you may be thinking. Well, this title was certainly chosen to catch your eye, but it’s also meant in other ways:

  • With the many ‘target groups’ and changing priorities we have, it may be timely to remember that the school library’s mission should ultimately be to get everyone reading. It’s easy to miss out categories of students in the rush to support ‘this year’s objective’.
  • It’s sometimes useful (and reassuring) to consider how much reading is actually going on out there - whether or not we see it in school libraries. In addition to magazines, comics, and newspapers, and reading on line, 2008’s ‘Read up Fed Up’ survey tells us that 11 to 14s are also reading blogs, song lyrics and film scripts, for example. Perhaps in one way or another, everyone is reading...though there’s always room for more!
  • This list contains material for most of the key audiences in secondary schools: boys; girls; both Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4/5; ‘reluctant’ readers; ‘struggling’ readers; and those learning English as an additional language (EAL). In effect, it shows that there’s reading material to suit all of us - not just ‘your reading’ and ‘my reading’, but ‘everyone’s reading!’

There are some great books in this list - ones which have a track record of appealing to the key audiences above. But books, like introductions, are only the beginning; it’s vital to have books that appeal, but it’s wrong to think: ‘I’ve got the right books, so now they’re bound to use the library more!’ Encouraging more students to read is a complex business, and choosing the right books is only part of what it takes to make headway - a reading culture that is powered by the library, but runs through the whole school.

This introduction makes four assumptions:

  1. That reading is a part of the overall achievement issue.
  2. That reading is an area you want to address in your school - though remember that in many schools, students are reading well - and there are keen readers everywhere!
  3. That reading by girls and boys is equally important, and so is supporting able and less able readers.
  4. That the general approach should be a spread of initiatives, which include ones to hook non-readers, ones to help struggling readers, ones with boy appeal and girl appeal, ones to sustain good readers, and ones to keep students reading right through the school.

This introduction uses ‘library’ to cover whatever your space is called, ‘librarian’ to include a range of staff involved in this work, and ‘school’ to encompass whatever name your organisation uses. We hope you enjoy reading it, and that you’ll encourage others in school to read it too. Use the booklist, and the introduction, to give a fresh impact to reading in your school, and keep in touch to tell us of your successes in getting everyone reading. Good luck!

Supported by:

Department for Children, Schools and FamiliesSchool Library AssociationReading for Life

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