Engaging readers remotely

I recently wrote a blog detailing a range of thoughts and strategies that have helped me to engage reluctant and / or struggling readers in the classroom (available on https://mrhtheteacher.wordpress.com/2020/12/18/reluctant-readers/). With this in mind, how might we boost engagement with – and a love of – reading whilst teaching and learning remotely? In my experience, those children most reluctant to read will inevitably fall further behind their peers during lockdown, so we need to ensure that we do everything we can to combat this. I shall share some of my strategies with the hope that it might spark discussion in the subsequent Twitter thread, so do feel free to join in after reading this.

Reading is the single greatest tool with which we can change children’s worlds

Strategies:

Bear in mind that whilst many children will read and be read to on a regular basis at home, many will not. This might be due to the availability of books, levels of respect around reading at home, time and a host of other reasons that will need unpicking. Try to share a range of texts digitally on a daily basis so your children can hear quality stories regularly (you may need to seek permission from publishers for this, depending on the platform you are sharing on). A broad mix of chapter books, picture book, non-fiction, poetry and anything else that lends itself to being read aloud (I take mine from our school reading spine so I know I have a diverse, quality assured spread). I’ve round this trickier with graphic novels, but photographs of pages alongside your reading works well here. There’s also lots of fabulous websites that share free stories, like Oxford Owl’s free ebook library (https://home.oxfordowl.co.uk/reading/free-ebooks/) for those with internet access.

My online teaching setup with our current class text and my personal reading book


I like to drop in occasional book reviews and book / author / illustrator shout outs on Seesaw, our online learning platform, as much as possible whilst giving shout outs to children who have done something awesome with their reading. I also send specific recommendations to children in our interactions when I find something I know they will enjoy. I always share what I’m reading and I love discussing upcoming books and what authors and illustrators have been sharing on social media (you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve been asked about Jennifer Killick’s Crater Lake: Evolution by my class!). I also ask my class to review books they’ve enjoyed so they can be shared to our class blog, therefore spreading the love of reading even further.

Reviews from two pupils in my class during lockdown learning

If you were lucky enough to send your children home with a few books (I fortunately had most of mine snaffle 2 or 3 for the Christmas break, some even asked for more), then why not ask them to record their reading so you can listen in? I know some schools are doing this live as well and this is a great opportunity to celebrate reading and promote book talk. Having a range of staff available to give feedback can be really powerful here – imagine sharing your reading and getting a really positive comment about it from the headteacher or your old reception class teacher. I know I’d have loved that as a child.

I have been accused of getting far too into the books I read, even remotely!

Digital author visits have had a great impact in our school this year. So far we’ve met Lisa Thompson, Jennifer Killick, Rashmi Sirdeshpande, Richard O’Neill, Neal Zetter and we’ve got Onjali Raúf coming soon. These can still be explored via remote learning as firstly there might be a possibility of sharing them live via Microsoft Teams or other similar platforms, alternatively you can try to ask for recorded sessions to share. These can be a huge part of author’s and illustrator’s incomes (so don’t expect them for free!), yet they’re often so affordable and have huge value and impact on fostering a love of reading. Many book folk already have pre-made videos ready to share along with websites packed with goodies – such as S F Said (http://www.sfsaid.com/?m=1 and do check his Kid’s Lit Fest YouTube video out https://youtu.be/0wV2et5Q-tU) and Brian Moses (http://brian-moses.blogspot.com/?m=1). Free websites like Authorfy are also a great place to seek out masterclasses and great author videos (https://authorfy.com).

One final strategy that had a huge impact on my class last lockdown was delivering books to homes. I appreciate that staffing and budget can make this difficult, however some library schemes offer delivery services and this can have a huge impact – it is a strategy I am currently exploring and I look forward to seeing where it goes.

I hope this ideas give you some food for thought, do join in with the following discussions on the Twitter thread if you have any strategies or ideas you have found to be successful. Happy reading!

2 thoughts on “Engaging readers remotely

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