A school with a novel approach to reading

Posted on: 03 Jun 2015

Staff dressed as Dennis the Menace, Where’s Wally and the White Rabbit helped make The Royal Junior School’s version of Book Day last for a Week

Staff dressed as Dennis the Menace, Where’s Wally and the White Rabbit helped make The Royal Junior School’s version of Book Day last for a Week. The Head of The Royal Junior School, Mrs Holly Hirst, explains how she uses novel ideas to help her young pupils discover the pleasure of reading…

At The Royal Junior School, rather than celebrating World Book Day in March, we dedicate a whole week in May to promote the pleasure of reading.

We do this with a theme around which activities are based. Our whole Junior School is involved, from Daycare to Prep 6 - approximately 200 pupils.

In previous years themes have been Illustration: with book illustrator Mike Byrne holding drawing and illustration workshops and Writing: with Conrad Mason holding writing workshops and a book signing.

Whilst the children are read to regularly, the themes provide staff with an opportunity to really boost pupils’ love of books. They also enable us to show children that reading can be a social as well as a solitary activity.

This year the theme was Telling Tales. Every day during the week classes had a surprise visitor; a member of staff who the children don’t normally see in the classroom came to tell them a story (from the grounds team and support staff to lots of teachers being seen with classes other than their own).

Getting in the spirit, many dressed up to help bring stories to life or brought in props. Characters included Mary Poppins, Where’s Wally, a whale, Mrs Rabbit from Beatrix Potter, a princess, the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, a witch and Dennis the Menace who sprayed the whole school with a water pistol!

Mr Williams, Prep 4 Teacher, dressed as a character from Woof! by Allan Ahlberg. He stayed in character all the time and told the boys in Prep 3 if they wanted to read the rest of the book they will find it on the shelf when they move up to Prep 4 in September.

Miss De la force, Deputy Head of the Junior School, was a North American Indian, Little Bull – she summoned the ‘boy scouts’ to the Old Library to listen to The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks. The grounds staff visited all the Pre-prep classes and read a variety of stories. Ben the Fireman from the IT department was an especially big hit with the nursery children!

One member of staff told a story her grandmother used to read to her as a child which was popular as it was clearly very special to her - the children loved sitting on a blanket outside at lunchtime while she read to them.

The idea of storytelling and the involvement of such a wide range of staff really inspired the children.

In addition, older children had the opportunity to read some favourites to the younger children. Our Prep 2s treated the school to a story told in British Sign Language and Nursery children enjoyed a musical storytelling session. Every child learned to tell the story of The Little Red Hen, with some actions thrown in the mix.

As we are all aware, the benefits of reading and being read to are multiple. As well as improving literacy, reading can improve listening skills and concentration, allow children to stretch their imaginations, broaden their horizons, offer comfort and reassurance, bring emotions to life and increase empathy, and help with effective communication. The list goes on…

So Poetry might be next year’s theme and we have a well-known poet waiting in the wings to visit us.

The energy around the school every year is absolutely magical. I couldn’t recommend it enough!

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