Reading for pleasure in hospitals

We were thrilled when Katie Barton from St George’s Hospital, Wandsworth got in touch to find out how we could help them support reading for pleasure in their setting. Reading for pleasure is vital for all children, opening up a world of possibilities. But for children in hospital, books and stories become even more magical – transporting children to other worlds, introducing them to wonderful characters, and providing a little relief from the situation they find themselves in.

Nearly all Read for Good’s tools and resources can be tailored to the needs and circumstances of the setting whether it’s a mainstream school, home educator, community setting or a hospital. Katie’s creativity, and understanding of what would work in her setting, combined with Read for Good’s resources, made for a great match.

Over to Katie, to tell us more…

Did you even know that hospitals have schools…?

St George’s Hospital and Home Tuition Service incorporates a lovely, bright hospital classroom for children from Reception through to Key Stage 4.  We have three main paediatric wards, an outpatient’s ward and intensive care units, and the teachers work in every setting and within the community.  Our children can be here for many reasons, including surgery, oncology, mental health support, special educational needs and ongoing medical conditions.  We are here to form a strong bridge for the children with their home school, and as well as providing holistic support, we carefully assess learning and form individual learning plans.  We also help integrate children back into school life and liaise with multidisciplinary teams and families. Our pupil numbers vary, but we often have four to five children in the classroom and several to see on the wards in the morning and afternoon.  The teachers have to be skilled to deal with a large range of conditions and to ensure that children have a very positive experience in an environment that can often be stressful.

Role of reading for pleasure in hospitals

The team believe that reading for pleasure is much more than a government directed initiative. We know that reading is the stepping stone for every other subject and that it can positively impact on well-being: a factor that is particularly important in a hospital school.  We give out fabulous books to children, offer over a thousand audiobooks on an iPad and have a strong curriculum that puts reading at its core!

Using Read for Good’s tools and resources 

We currently have a little library of reading for pleasure books and the teachers tend to add to it when they go shopping! Staff in the hospital sometimes donate books but we absolutely love the Brilliant Box of Books from Read for Good, as the books are new and popular titles. We try to ensure that all students are able to have a book that really matches their interests and reading age.   Giving out ‘gift’ books to new children clearly impacts well on them, and they are much appreciated by the parents and carers.  We have found that graphic novels in particular are taken very quickly!  

We chose to run a Readathon at the hospital as we very much wanted a way to raise money for Read for Good, but found that asking children to do a sponsored read felt a little tricky.  We knew that stalls were often set up in the main entrance, so we booked a table and asked Read for Good for some goodies to help us make the stand inviting.  It was easy to set up with a large selection of books, fun reading challenges, a QR code to donate and some cakes we had decorated with a reading theme.  All the teachers took part and we very much enjoyed raising money that afternoon!   The children, staff and parents who passed by were thrilled at the prospect of free books.

How did you involve the wider hospital? What was the benefit?

We believe that the stall not only helped to promote Read for Good, but it helped to make the staff at St George’s more aware of the work that we do to support children whilst they are unwell.  

How Wandsworth Hospital’s experience can help other settings, and help Read for Good:

We believe that other settings could also easily set up a stall in a similar way, if they felt that managing a Readathon was not practical.  All they need are a selection of brilliant books, a QR code to donate and some balloons and posters!  Anyone can raise money for children in hospital schools and by supporting children to read, they would be positively impacting on well-being and helping to develop a life-long love of reading.

Thank you! 

To apply for a Brilliant Box of Books to support a reading for pleasure culture in your setting, please click here.

To find out more and to order a free Readathon kit, click here.

If you work in a setting like this and would like to know more, please email reading@readforgood.org.

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