9. Role Models for Reading
What all students need are role models for reading. Many of them lack these (especially male ones) even in their own families, and it’s even more important that they experience such models at school. Jamie Oliver’s recent boast that he ‘got where he is without reading a book’ has caused the National Literacy Trust to undertake a substantial piece of work on role models, which is due out at the time of writing.
Make the most of any role models you can, from school and the wider community - either in real life, on posters, on video, or through quotations of their words. Involve men, in particular, in library activities (the co-host of a reading group, for example), and encourage them to talk about reading throughout the school. Celebrities, well-liked teachers, older students, and peers all have a role to play.
Anyone too shy to talk, or too busy to visit the library can at least contribute information on what they’re reading at the moment; a picture of themselves when a boy, with their favourite book then; anecdotes about what their parents caught them reading; their favourite place to read, and so on. The web lets you create an ideal showcase of who’s reading what and why around the school. Try these ideas:
- Encourage other teachers to visit the library - a presence at lunch and break times (especially male) is particularly useful.
- Head Teachers can model the importance of reading at the highest level - can they regularly talk about reading, or share their book choices? Can they visit staff and student reading groups? They can also talk about reading at staff meetings, and invite others’ book choices.
- Involve other men in the school - caretakers and administrators, for example.
- Make use of school governors, to talk about their reading, and what reading means to them.
- Invite family members (especially fathers and uncles) into school.
- If you have parent volunteers to help with reading, is there a fair balance of men and women involved? In the North of England and the Midlands, Reading Matters can support this.
- When choosing authors, illustrators or storytellers to visit, feature both men and women; many will also provide a ‘personal testimony’ about how their poor reading at school turned into a love of books later in life.
- Poets and poetry rappers may be especially effective in reaching reluctant readers.
- Invite other kinds of guests (cartoonists, songwriters, sportsmen, DJs, graffiti artists).
- Don’t forget community figures (local policemen, fire fighters, chefs, business leaders). Guests from outside the book world are valuable: a) because the visit happens in the library, and b) because you can pull out library materials to link in, and for follow-up.