Plenty of reading bait to help you reel in basic skills students

27th June 2008 at 01:00
Driven by targets and tests, most of us don't introduce adults to the pleasures of reading as much as we might

Driven by targets and tests, most of us don't introduce adults to the pleasures of reading as much as we might. You can teach basic literacy skills but, without much experience of reading, many students will struggle with the questions up to level 2 (GCSE equivalent).

The National Year of Reading gives us an impetus to review how we might use reading as a direct part of our teaching in key and functional skills, family learning, prisons, basic skills classes and English for speakers of other languages.

If you are not sure how to organise reading in class, the National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy (NRDC) practitioner guide, Reading, by Maxine Burton, will help. This is available from

For new readers, the selection of worthwhile books is growing. Ten new Quick Reads titles were published in March. Teaching ideas to go with these can be found at The books are aimed at entry level 3 and above.

There are Quick Reads books by John Bird, founder of The Big Issue, tycoon Richard Branson, singer Kerry Katona, TV journalist John Simpson, rugby player Scott Quinnell, athlete Colin Jackson, and chef Gordon Ramsay. As these books were written for adult audiences, some contain sex and violence, so you need to be comfortable about the content before you introduce them.

For less able readers, try books from New Leaf, Sandstone, Gatehouse and New Island. Some of these meet needs below entry level 3. Your local library should be able to help find copies. Here are some ideas to help you get things moving:

Be judge and jury: Choose a story in which there is a question of justice. Pick a Quick Reads novel such as Chickenfeed, or Cleanskin. Or choose a story like One Good Turn, in which a soldier is accused of cowardice. Read the story together and debate the guilt or innocence of the main character. For a list of Quick Reads see:

It's a crime: Take a look at how crime is reported. Students could compare contemporary examples in the news with historical reporting of a well- known case such as that of Jack the Ripper. Are journalists doing a valuable job in keeping the public informed, or are they manipulating public opinion? For more details see the website: www.met.police.ukhistoryripper.htm

The book of the film: Is it better to see the film or read the book? Look at a review and see if the students agree. The BBC often dramatises books, and there are several Dr Who titles in the Quick Reads series. There are many review sites such as

Get lyrical: Ask students to share music and lyrics they enjoy. A story in which a young man takes a journey across America is told in Reading, My Arse by Ricky Tomlinson (Quick Reads). Read this with your students and get hold of some of the music referred to in the story.

Create a storyboard: Working in groups, choose a short book with a good story and then recreate it using storyboard techniques. There are plenty of internet sites that explain how to do this.

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