Fostering Reading in our Community
Well Read is an initiative organised by the PDST to encourage reading and writing amongst young people and adults alike. Here in FCJ Bunclody, we have worked hard over the past two years to promote a “Culture of Reading” within the student body, as well as with members of staff and even further afield among parents and the wider community. Through the organisation of a wide variety of events and activities and the establishment of facilities in and around the school, we hope we have helped to convey the importance of reading within our local area.
The Well Read committee’s top priority when looking to promote the importance of reading within the school is with the students. It is our hope that if we can encourage students to get into reading now, it is a habit which will stick with them for years to come. Over the past year, we have organised a huge number of activities in our school to reach our goal among our students. The initial project undertaken by our team of students, parents and teachers was to survey the students in our school. This provided us with the fundamental information we needed. Through this we realised that reading declined as our students moved up the years, and so encouraged us to get started right away. It was important to let our school community know what ‘Well Read’ is. Three of our own students created a short film which was presented to the whole school. From here we launched a number of different activities including competitions in short story and creative writing. We decided to incorporate some more fun aspects, for example a Christmas tree and nativity scene constructed from books outside our main office. Our team also began to utilise one of the facilities that we are very fortunate to have in our school; the school library, from which students can borrow books as they please. Currently we run a paired reading programme between our Transition Year students and our younger students to help encourage reading. We are proud to say that as a result of no homework ‘blackmail’ with our younger years, an increased number of students now bring in a book to school every day. Once we had established an interest in reading and writing among the students, an ‘Author in Residence’ workshop was organised, targeting our younger students. We invited an author in our local area, Caroline Busher, to run four workshops with groups of interested students and offer some of her expertise in the area, in order to nourish the enthusiasm that had developed among our students.
However, from the beginning we hoped also to encourage members of staff to get involved in the Well Read Initiative. Our primary goal here was to make books as accessible as possible in variety of different ways, as well as to suggest and promote reading material to suit all interests. Along with the student library, we decided to establish a smaller selection of books within the staff room itself. Operating on a “Take a Book, Leave a Book” system, we hoped to catch teachers’ eyes whilst also fostering an environment in which teachers could discuss their most recent reads with one another. In addition to this, we encouraged teachers throughout the school to create simple posters, displaying the name of the book they were reading at any given time.
After getting through to our students and teachers, it was vital to also get our message of the importance of reading across to the parents and wider community in our area. Messages are received by our parents through a school app, so this seemed like a perfect means of communication. Every month a ‘Book of the Month’ is published as a recommendation. Although this is aimed at parents, students and teachers alike are free to take a look at the wide variety of books that are suggested. Similar to our ‘Borrow a Book’ system in the staff room, a mini library was designed and constructed in our school car park, which is now filled with books for parents to take or leave. Every two years our school hosts an open day. Our team created a magnificent display of book quotes, posters, bookmarks and the foundations of a building to entice curious visitors, and this gave us an opportunity to explain the idea behind ‘Well Read’ and hopefully encourage them to pick up a book themselves.
On the whole, we believe that our efforts over the past year have had a positive impact on the whole school and the wider community and we hope that, thanks to the Well Read Initiative, we’ve changed the way people think about books.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss
FCJ Bunclody students Fionn O’Muiri, Eve Furlong and Hannah Sweeney have written the piece attached which outlines the schools Well Read journey from inception to submission. The lovely photographs demonstrate the creative book displays and the school lovely library in what was the former convent chapel.