From screen to page: Using pop-culture to encourage reading

James Bell

James Bell has worked in the education industry for Renaissance Learning for more than 10 years. Over this time he has worked with the National Foundation for Educational Research to assist them in completing an independent correlation study to confirm the reliability and validity of Renaissance Learning’s STAR Reading, STAR Maths and STAR Early Literacy products.  He also piloted Accelerated Reader in the United Kingdom with great success, and an independent research report was subsequently written by the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust confirming outstanding results

Follow @RenLearn_UK

Website: www.renlearn.co.uk Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Results from a report published at the beginning of March shows that in Year 7, when students are making the transition to secondary school, children are choosing books six months below their chronological age and from then on reading difficulty plateaus or declines. However, in primary schools both the difficulty levels of books chosen and the accuracy with which they are read is on the rise.

The primary / secondary gap

The start of secondary school is therefore a crucial time to maintain momentum achieved in primary and continue that positive upwards trend. Lack of challenge is the likely culprit in the downturn in the difficulty of books being read at secondary transfer. We believe this marked change does not necessarily reflect a lack of ability, just that the choice of books by secondary school students represents significant under-challenge. This is not limited to struggling readers or high achievers, all groups are in need of greater challenge.

But often what educators need most is the information to understand where the starting point is to continue this upwards progression. How can you keep building on literacy in Year 7 if you don’t know what level it is to start with? It can be incredibly valuable to establish a student’s reading level to ensure they are guided towards suitably challenging books that they will actually comprehend.

Encouraging challenge

Teachers and librarians can make a huge difference by encouraging each child to challenge themselves with their reading choices at the appropriate level for them. One finding from the report is that where children are exposed to highly motivational characters and plots from a wide range of media, they are encouraged to try books which are often significantly above their chronological reading age.

This means that that the films and computer games adapted from books may actually encourage children to try more challenging reads. On a practical level, harnessing the Hollywood hype of a new film might be a good route to encouraging students to pick up a book that will offer them the challenge they need. And with new literary adaptations sweeping the film world every year there are plenty to be on the lookout for.

Film adaptations of three books voted as students’ most loved in the 2014 report are due to be released this year. ‘Divergent’ by Veronica Roth, ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ by John Green and the final instalment of J R R Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ could all offer a good challenge for late primary and early secondary pupils. For older students Lois Lowry’s award winning ‘The Giver’ is also set for the big screen this year, as is Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper taking on the central roles in Ron Rash’s ‘Serena’.

What’s really encouraging from these adaptations is that they cover a wide range of genres and styles opening up a broader avenue of choice for children. Allowing children this freedom of choice to decide what books they read empowers them as readers.

Children should be encouraged to read a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction texts and it is important that they don’t feel restricted. This is why whatever literacy strategy a school adopts it should encompass the widest possible range of books whilst ensuring that students can actually comprehend what they are reading without being under-challenged.

Pop-culture supporting literacy

In an increasingly multi-media world, these findings suggest that popular culture can support literacy, rather than acting as a distraction. Another example of this is the speed at which TV comedian David Walliams is making his way up the ‘most read’ charts. He made his first appearance this year as the fifth most read author in UK schools, making him the fastest rising author on the list. Undoubtedly the quality of his books and their appeal to children and educators alike is a contributor to his success, but perhaps a well-known name has helped him on the way.

Another tactic for getting students to pick up more challenging books is to direct them towards books written for older readers from names they already recognise. For example, Eoin Colfer, bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series, also wrote the latest ‘Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy’ book. Young football fans might be tempted by the story of Brian Clough told in David Peace’s ‘The Damned United’ or David Beckham’s autobiography. And budding comedians might get thoroughly caught up in ‘The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington’ which accompanied Sky TV’s hit series ‘An Idiot Abroad’.

Educators’ understanding of the reading age and interests of their students is the best start to providing recommendations of books that will challenge and progress their reading skills. Understanding what really appeals to children can open up a new range of suggestions. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to getting children to challenge themselves, but with a knowledge of what motivates them to pick up a book getting them to choose one that develops their skills is one step closer.

The 2014 What Kids Are Reading Report is available to download free from www.whatkidsarereading.co.uk.

Have you used similar tactics to encourage pupil reading? If so, tell us about it in the comments section.

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now
Login

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"