As we now launch into Literacy and Numeracy week, I am reminded that my real goal as an educator is to create an interest in reading that will extend throughout the entire year, and indeed a lifetime.
It is my responsibility to develop a passion for literacy that extends beyond nominated events and becomes part of the everyday.
At my secondary school, Caroline Chisholm Catholic College in Melbourne’s inner-west, we cater to students with a wide range of abilities and cultural backgrounds, including refugees – and literacy is a key focus.
I believe that schools and families must work together to create a reading culture for our young people.
We have been working hard to encourage a positive attitude towards reading in our students – and, yes, you can get teenagers on board with the right strategies both at home and at school.
At the College, we take a personalised approach. Students in years seven, eight and nine meet regularly with teachers for one-on-one sessions to discuss reading interests and new learning strategies to support independent reading, as part of a recently-launched reading program at our two junior campuses.
In addition to NAPLAN tests, we use independent testing to measure our students’ progress in literacy and numeracy year on year. This data is used by students and teachers to develop personalised learning opportunities and assist students to achieve growth and success.
Our libraries are bright, renovated and welcoming spaces where students are encouraged to read, study or relax.
The College’s junior boys’ campus runs a book club, providing an intimate space for peer-to-peer conversations about the books they enjoy and that encourages the students to try new genres and authors.
Along with the book week activities that come around every year, there are also a number of ways to engage with teens at home to encourage reading, including:
Tailor material to their interests
Like all other hobbies, reading should be fun!
Not everyone will like the same genres, styles or authors. Don’t censor their choices, and don’t criticise them.
If a teenager is into vampires, fine! Use the interest to spark a reading journey of wide and varied texts on the topic.
Teens who turn their noses up at fiction could be tempted with a non-fiction book that speaks to their interests.
Look beyond books
Reading material doesn’t have to be limited to the traditional hardcover book.
A teen loves Superman? Try gifting DC comics. They’re a film buff? Consider a subscription to a movie magazine. They’re into sport? Buy a newspaper every weekend – and leave it back page up of course!
Organise their own library card
Local libraries have changed! No longer do they just offer books, but DVDs, magazines and internet access.
Head down to the local library and help teens organise their very own library card, and keep visiting on a regular basis.
For younger teens, it could be one of the first cards they own in their name – giving them a sense of ownership and excitement.
Lead by example
The more young people see others reading – and enjoying reading – the more likely they are to follow suit. Teens are not big fans of ‘do as I say, not as I do’!
Talk it over
Discuss whatever it is that you’re reading, and ask about what they’re reading.
Love it? Loathe it? Most irritating character? Most interesting fact learned? Talking about why they didn’t like the book is just as powerful for their learning as finding a book they love!
See the movie, read the book
If your teen likes a particular movie, encourage them to read the book too!
Discover new things about the characters they love with the turn of every page.
Encourage your child to participate in the annual Premier’s Reading Challenge.
Take reading to the next level with the support of their school and other students who have signed up. Keep an eye out for details of this event in 2017.
The lesson here is that it’s always a good time to talk about books, not just during Book Week – and remember, it’s never too late to get young people engaged in reading.