In conversation with Katie Vince, Readathon® Ambassador, for World Book Day 2023
22nd February 2023
In preparation for World Book Day (2 March), Read for Good spoke to Katie Vince, Secondary School Readathon® Ambassador. She discusses how she successfully runs Readathon alongside World Book Day, and the benefits of reading for pleasure in schools.
Tell us a bit about who you are, what you do?
“Well I’ve been teaching English for over 10 years now, I always wanted to teach English – I loved my school experience and I’ve always been super passionate about literacy.
My current post, which I’ve recently moved into, is as a “Lead Practitioner for Literacy”. It’s really interesting as my school is graded as “requires improvement” from OFSTED. It’s in a really deprived area in Coventry, so the pupils just don’t have access to books at home. Bringing me in as Lead Practitioner for Literacy is a really powerful thing.
I just finished my Masters in Education, taking the literacy and language pathway. It’s given me a greater insight and evidence base. I feel really equipped to be able to bring literacy and reading for pleasure into the school, to improve the life prospects of the students in the community that I work for.”
Why do you think reading for pleasure is important for children?
“Reading for pleasure is just so important. It’s escapism isn’t it? Fiction is great for stimulating the imagination, for children from very limited backgrounds this becomes even more important. It shows that it’s not just these children in their bubbles – that there’s a whole range of experiences and cultures out there. There’s so much more diversity in books now, it’s an opportunity for children to feel represented in themselves, and also to see people different from them. Literature can support children to find their own sense of identity, which is really important as they’re growing up.”
Why do you like running Readathon®, why is it valuable?
“I’ve just ordered my Readathon kit for this year, which I’m really excited about. I don’t think there’s a huge reading for pleasure culture in the school at the moment. It can be a real uphill struggle to support these children who have already faced so many disadvantages, but Readathon can play a really important part in it. Having the time and space to run a reading for pleasure focused activity, and celebrate reading is brilliant. It has so many benefits for these students.
Literacy Co-ordinators can have a really hard time getting buy-in from busy teachers, even though we know there’s loads of evidence to suggest just how important reading is. That’s part of the beauty of Readathon – it’s low effort and high impact. It’s really easy to run, and the support that the team at Read for Good offer is fantastic. There’s so many online resources and materials as well – you even provide an online letter that you can print off and send home to parents. The launch videos are amazing.
It’s a really easy way to get buy-in because it’s for charity as well. With the sponsorship going to children in hospital, who wouldn’t want to help? It’s a brilliant tie in, as the students are not just reading for their own benefit, but reading for others.”
How does Readathon work with World Book Day in your experience?
“I’ve always traditionally launched Readathon for the whole school. It’s great to run it for a short time period, and it’s great to have that kind of celebratory moment, like World Book Day, to end Readathon on.
This term is really good timing I think, where there’s a bit of a lull after Christmas, and lots of mock marking and Year 11 intervention, this is a really easy thing to run alongside. I’d go into school in mid to end January and launch it, and all our English teachers physically give out sponsor cards to every child to really demonstrate the support from all the teachers, and make sure that everyone knows about it, rather than picking and choosing whether to do it.
To then tie it into World Book Day, which is such a famous worldwide day anyway, it’s just the perfect moment for schools really. Especially in secondary schools where students don’t really dress up or celebrate World Book Day in as much of a public way, celebrating how much you might have raised for a charity, or how much you might have read, is a really lovely thing.
It’s really nice, not too long, not too short, plenty of time to get letters home to parents, to get things on school social media and to generate some donations too. On World Book Day as well there’s so much buzz. Readathon just links really well to World Book Day, and it’s a great thing to add into the celebrations.
Even for schools who are in a bit of a rush, there’s resources online and the online donation platform, so you don’t even need the physical sponsorship cards if you don’t want them.
How else do you build a reading for pleasure culture in your school?
Two of the big things are getting staff on board and getting parents involved.
We have ‘I am reading’ posters around the school. I asked staff, office staff as well as teaching staff, to have a poster on their classroom or office door with a picture of what they’re reading and a little blurb about it. You’d be surprised by how much conversation that generates between staff and students, staff and staff, students and students, like “Oh that book looks good Miss”, or “Oh I’m reading this”. I also like to make sure DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time is followed by all staff. It can be disheartening to see staff using that time to check emails or set lessons up. Teachers really are role models, and it’s important that they are role models for reading. When students go from primary school where they’re learning to read, into secondary school where they’re reading to learn, there’s a massive gap there. It’s so important to have reading role models and literacy that helps across all subjects. You have to really embed that reading for pleasure across the school.
At home, our kids and our adults don’t really have access to books, and parents don’t often come into school – there’s sometimes a bit of a negative relationship with school from when they were kids. I kind of want to bridge that gap with reading for pleasure. Something I’ve done is invite parents in for reading workshops. There’s an awkwardness though, as you might be seen as telling them they can’t read or they’re not parenting correctly, so you have to be sensitive. It’s great to deliver these workshops as part of a whole school approach of ‘how to support your child with…’ for different subjects and topics, and then bring literacy in there.”
Katie is an active ambassador for Readathon on social media and online.
You can find Katie’s blog here: https://leadingliteracy.school.blog/
She is also active on Twitter.