A Reading School: Guest Post from Alan Gibbons

I’m thrilled to have Alan Gibbons on the blog today. He’s touring blogs to celebrate his latest teen publication with Indigo, Raining Fire, out last week. See the bottom of this post for more info about the book. As a former teacher, and a campaigner for libraries and reading, Alan decided to share with us his views on what a reading school looks like. It sounds like a great place; I’d certainly like to be able to teach there!

A reading school is a successful school

A reading child is a successful child. You wouldn’t argue with that, would you? A 2005 Unesco report identifies reading for pleasure as the single most powerful agent of academic and social success. It should follow therefore that a reading school is a successful school. Well, it’s full of children, isn’t it?

Go into some schools and, whatever the personal feelings of the teachers, it just doesn’t feel like that. You can go into schools without libraries, schools where the children seem only to read excerpts, schools where reading is about technique, synthetic phonics, targets or where the culture of controlled assessments is the be all and end all.

Let me take you on a tour of a reading school. Walk through the door and the foyer has bright, new books on show, usually covers facing you. There are anthologies of reviews written by the staff and students laid out on the tables. There are posters of the students’ favourite authors. There are book cover designs and bookmarks made in class. The TV screen features rolling book recommendations: best film tie-in, best vampire book, best book if you like James Bond, best factual or fiction books about football. There are short films and podcasts in which members of the school community discuss the hot reads of the week. There are book trailers downloaded from You Tube.

Carry on into the heart of the school and there is the library, properly staffed, bright and airy. This is a place with a good book stock. It is a place where digital and physical reading material co-exists in a managed symbiosis. A class is browsing the stock and making their choice. Later in the week, they will have a performance poet in. They still remember the novelist who ran writing workshops last term. Some of them are taking place in the Carnegie Shadowing Group. At lunchtime the library buzzes with reading groups, Warhammer groups, casual browsing and work on computers. Every class has a time when they come in for sustained, silent reading.

Throughout the school there are mystery reader photo competitions, pictures of the students, teachers and members of the local community photographed against the backdrop of their favourite reading landscape. There are regular assemblies around the subject of reading. Students, teachers and members of the local community talk about their favourite books. The books are laid out on tables at the back of the hall for the students to borrow.

In other words, reading is not a worthy exhortation or an optional extra, a matter of didactic instruction or something we would do if we had the time. It is organic to the life of the school, something everyone is expected to do and it is something done for pleasure. Well, you wouldn’t invent a school that doesn’t read, would you? I mean, that would be stupid.

Alan Gibbons is a full time writer and organiser of the Campaign for the Book.
Raining Fire by Alan Gibbons is published by Indigo on 7 March 2013
trade paperback £8.99, eBook £4.99

The gun is power.
The gun can make a weak man strong. The gun is the coward’s fist
 

Opening lines from Raining Fire

“The two great cities of the North West, Manchester and Liverpool, provide the background for most of my writing. This is where I have lived and worked most of my adult life. This is where my wife and I raised our family. The North West is, as Gerry Marsden sang in Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey ‘the place I love’…

As a teacher and author I have spoken to a number of youngsters for whom school and academic success held little attraction. Growing up on bleak, jobless estates, they saw sport or crime as the only pathways out of poverty and boredom. Some spoke of the buzz they got from hanging round gangs. I wanted to explore this world, neither to make judgements, nor to glamorise, but to understand.” 

Author’s Note from Raining Fire

In this tense, gripping and absorbing thriller, Alan Gibbons explores the complex issue of gun crime, and the far-reaching consequences it can have. Head over to the Indigo website for more information.

One Reply to “A Reading School: Guest Post from Alan Gibbons”

  1. What wonderful ideas! And I do try and incorporate a lot of them into my work as a school librarian but sometimes it’s quite difficult. I work alone, so am constantly balancing my dual roles of librarian and library manager. I instigate ideas but unless I constantly re-enforce them, they sometimes get forgotten in the day-to-day grind, even if they are initially treated with enthusiasm. And … no matter how hard you try, you are NEVER going to get everybody on board. That said, it doesn’t stop me – if I try something and it doesn’t work then I just move onto the next thing. And the important point to remember is that even if we only make an impact with one student then whatever we’ve done has been successful.

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