Getting boys into books can be a battle, but find the right formula and it can be done. Our early bird reading club has linked primary pupils with their older "cool buddies" from secondary with encouraging results.
Our schools, Uphall Primary and Loxford School, a secondary in Ilford, Essex, have teamed up because 18 young boys were underachieving in reading due to a disinterest in books.
Other attempts to fire their enthusiasm proved fruitless.
This is a deprived area where a high proportion of pupils are entitled to free school meals, about 95 per cent are from ethnic minorities and an increasing proportion are from refugee backgrounds.
There were some barriers to overcome: the two schools had different hours, transport between them had to be organised, adult supervision was required and suitable mentors had to be identified.
But a breakfast club solved many problems. It enabled all the pupils to share a healthy meal before reading "boy-friendly" books together in a relaxed atmosphere.
We introduced the older Loxford pupils to different ways of promoting reading, including discussing content and relating the stories to their own lives.
The bond between older and younger pupils strengthened, particularly between one Uphall pupil with severe learning difficulties and challenging behaviour and his buddy. This contributed to the 100 per cent attendance rates, with pupils arriving earlier and earlier to start reading.
There was more interest in books, including discussions throughout the day about what the boys had read. All of the Year 5 boys made progress in reading, with some improving far above any predictions.
In turn, the secondary pupils felt pride and grew in self-esteem as they were given greater responsibility.
One of the mentors was concerned about his buddy's ability to concentrate and tried innovative ways of helping, including seating arrangements. Another is staying for a second year at the request of his buddy.
The second phase of the project is for girls and boys. A breakfast readers group has also been set up in another primary school in the area.
But sustaining a project like this can be costly because the pupils involved are often the least able to pay for breakfast
Chris Lamb is assistant headteacher at Uphall Primary School. Louise Kanolik is extended school co-ordinator at Loxford School, both in Ilford, Essex.
TOAST OF THE CLASSROOM
- Tailor the reading materials to the needs and interests of the pupils.
- Select the mentors carefully; those who have had similar reading difficulties will have greater understanding.
- Train the mentors; investing time in them demonstrates the importance of their role.
- Do not charge for the breakfast so your target group can attend.