Adam Guillane

Oxford Reading Spree

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Today, for my post-SATs treat, I went to Larkrise Primary School for this year’s Oxford Reading Spree- a wonderful celebration of reading and children’s literature. It was great to meet up with so many familiar faces and to meet some new ones.

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Ed Finch started the day by welcoming us all to his school and making sure we all knew the essential information for the day- like where the Roving Bookshop could be found.

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The first speaker was Simon Smith, a familiar name on Twitter. He had spoken at Oxford Reading Spree in 2017 so it was great to hear from him again. Having set the scene about his school and its location, he then spoke passionately about reading comprehension (not the test kind!), the importance of teachers selecting the books they use with their children, how guided reading is vital to developing reading and of the importance of picture books for everyone. Plenty of music to my ears!

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Nicki Cleveland then ranted (very nicely!) about the importance of libraries- both school and public- and the vital role they- and librarians - play. Her dedication to and enthusiasm for her role were evident and she used plenty of evidence to support her points. It is truly shocking to know that libraries are statutory in prisons, but not in schools, meaning we have ‘children growing up in the UK who stand a better chance of having access to books if they are convicted of a crime than attending their primary school’. Having discussed the benefits of having a school library, she then appealed to the audience for help by submitting case studies to the Great School Libraries website. (Find out more here.)

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Next, Ian Eagleton reflected on his ‘Reading River’. His very moving and gently humorous session looked at his experiences growing up and how he was constantly looking for characters who reflected him in books when he was a teenager. He finished his session with a poem he had written called ‘The Army of Teachers’.

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All this bookish wonder- and it was only coffee time! After a quick break (involving a trip to the bookshop!), we returned to the hall to hear from Ceri Eccles (@Teacherglitter) who was full of enthusiasm and ideas for ‘books and hooks’, including a wonderful severed arm belonging to Grendel! You had to see it to believe it!

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Nick Swarbrick led a very entertaining and thought-provoking session about what children shouldn’t read- texts which cross boundaries or are concerned with topics which attitudes have changed towards. He questioned whether some texts are engaging for or relevant to children… He certainly offered a lot of food for thought!

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Just before lunch, we were treated to a wonderful story with Adam and Charlotte Guillain, who were making the case for humour and rhyme in books. They were running one of the workshops in the afternoon as well.

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After lunch, I was lured to Simon Smith’s session by the promise of lots of books- and indeed there were books a-plenty. Simon challenged everyone to think about who they should be shared with, when and why. He emphasised the need for teachers to know the books they are using- and the children they are using them with and to be mindful of all the things we don’t know about our pupils. At this time, Jo Cummins (@BookSuperhero2) held a workshop about the ‘serious side of funny books’ and the Guillains spoke about the ‘importance of unimportant books’. It was hard to choose where to go!

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Once settled back in the hall, the head of Ryefield Primary School, Mr Tucker, told us about all the wonderful things he and his staff have been getting up to to engage their pupils with books and reading. I loved the alien tablets and am wondering how soon I can plagiarise his idea, subtly passing it off as my own!

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The day ended with Bob Cox talking about the importance of using high quality texts. He shared many examples of children’s work inspired by using such work and his enthusiasm and energy were a great way of finishing the day!

Exhausting, but very enjoyable, this year’s Oxford Reading Spree was another great success- I’m already looking forward to next year! Many thanks to Ed Finch and his team for organising such an enjoyable day!

Please excuse the quality of the photos- all of the speakers were very animated and moved around a lot!