Rooted in Reading: Passports for Reading

By Willshaw, Steve | NATE Classroom, Autumn 2011 | Go to article overview

Rooted in Reading: Passports for Reading


Willshaw, Steve, NATE Classroom


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Rooted in Reading was conceived as a Lincolnshire response to the National Year of Reading (2008) that would build upon the high profile given to reading during the year but also, through the use of a strong concept, develop a product that would have a sustainable effect on reading and an on-going impact on the lives of children, building capacity and capability. Working with a local designer, we came up with the concept of Rooted in Reading and the strong central tree image, which encapsulates the organic way books and reading can contribute to personal, social and academic growth. This has subsequently been used on all the publications.

The project is based on a series of reading logs we call 'passports'. The first was A6 with a green leather-look cover and detailed watermarking on the inside pages, to give as much of the look of a real passport as possible. We wanted to create products that children, teachers and parents would be excited by and proud to complete. The pages were given general headings: fiction, nonfiction, newspapers, plays and poetry, so that the reader will be gently guided towards widening the range of texts they choose to read. The pages can be completed in any order so it only becomes necessary to seek out a specific genre or type of text in order to complete the last few tasks. Rubber stamps were made featuring the tree motif that teachers and librarians could use to endorse children's reading, tapping into that excitement that comes from getting your real passport stamped or collecting stickers in a book. I wrote all the passports as part of my job as Senior School Improvement Consultant with Lincolnshire School Improvement Service, managed by CfBT, a not-for-profit education trust. We are very proud that the patron of Rooted in Reading is Morris Gleitzman, international best-selling children's author of Toad Rage, Boy Overboard, and the recent trilogy, Once, Then and Now. Since April 2011 we have worked with NATE to make the passports available to all schools through NATE 's catalogue and online shop at www.nate.org.uk. The prices have been kept as low as we can manage in the hope that as many schools as possible will get involved.

The first passports were enthusiastically received by teachers and children in both primary and secondary schools but it soon became apparent that a range of passports would be required to meet the needs of readers at different stages of development. So, a blue passport was designed for KS1 readers which provides more space to accommodate youthful handwriting. When my youngest son completed his green passport in Year 5 I could see that, while he had found it motivating and it had clearly increased the amount of reading he did (contributing I am sure to his having his most successful school year to date), he would not be motivated by being given another copy of the same passport to start all over again the following year. From this, Passport Plus in dark red covers was born. Here the range of text types covered is wider--e.g. a text written about the area you live in and a text in which the lead character is of the opposite sex to the reader--and the prompts are more specific and varied, the overall tone of the passport more grown up.

Other ideas were soon developed. The first A5 passport, the purple 'Rooted in Reading Award', was conceived as a reading version of the Duke of Edinburgh Award, with bronze and silver certificates for schools to award for the completion of 8 and 12 of the tasks and a gold certificate that I send out when schools send in passports with all 16 tasks completed to an appropriate standard. Names of these students are recorded and they can then include reference to their achievement in their UCAS personal statement and institutions can verify the award with me. The tasks are more demanding here--reading a prize winning novel, attending a live literature event, getting involved in helping a younger child to read etc.

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