Get some DEAR time in your day

A couple of weeks ago I went on a bit of a rant about how the education system should be encouraging children to read for pleasure instead of worrying about their grades and OFSTED results. Well something I saw this week made me remember not to doubt the resourcefulness of educators for fighting back against this.

As part of my normal day job* I work for an education charity that runs teacher training workshops in schools. This week we were at a secondary academy in Bath. We’ve been planning this day for a while, and during one of my routine phone calls with the assistant head he suddenly gets a little sheepish.

“Er, it’s a bit of a crazy request this. We have a scheme in our school called Drop Everything And Read time, where everyone in the school reads for an allocated time during the day. It does include visitors, are you OK with putting it in your agenda?” Am I?! A time carved out in the day where all you need to do is sit and read? Sign me up! So I dutifully emailed all our attendees and speakers to bring a book along, and on the night before packed a few extra books for the minority of people who don’t hang on my every written word (I know - shocking right?)

The day comes, and at exactly 10.51, in the middle of a presentation that was running long, a bell goes and with barely a word the whole room of professional adults pulls out a book or paper and begins to read. It was like a vision from my dreams. As engrossed I was in my second reading of “After the Funeral” by Agatha Christie, I couldn’t help looking up every few minutes in wonder at everyone in the room with their head in a book. Photo coming shortly following permission from the school!

Then, at 11.06 another bell rang, and like a spell being broken the room looks up and we carry on the day. Beautiful. And the literary fun didn’t end there. As we’re guided around the school by the eager year 8s, I soon noticed outside every classroom door a sign that showed what the teacher was reading, and a review of it so far, for the whole school to see. The whole school had a real community feel to it, despite its 1500 students, and this just exemplified it. I can’t think of a better way to get the school talking about books. It made me want to get a job in the school, despite the 3 and a half hour round commute a day!

So bravo teachers, I don’t know why I’m so surprised. Be it through DEAR time, class story sessions, book weeks, whatever, the passion of educators around the world will ensure that a love of reading is not lost in a mess of exams, levels and pressure. We can all learn from this, get some DEAR time in your day!

* I wish I could get paid for reading books and writing about them - I’m working on it though!

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