Encouraging the Joy of Reading

NEWS 4 Oct 2021

One of the unexpected impacts of COVID-19 lockdowns has been an upswing in the amount of time children spend reading. Whether a traditional-style book or a digital version, it seems children of all ages have sought to escape the restrictions of the pandemic by escaping into other worlds.

A report by the National Literacy Trust in the UK looking at children and young people’s reading before and during the COVID lockdown found their enjoyment of reading has increased and one-third of children and young people are now reading more.

Almost one in two children read new books during lockdown and three in five said reading made them feel better. Interestingly, while girls enjoyed reading books, half of boys in the UK study said listening to audiobooks increased their interest in reading.

News - The Joy of Reading

In Australia, the lockdown has had similar effects on the reading habits of children and young people. Bookshop sales for young readers rose last year and the 2021 Civica Libraries Index found that the demand for digital resources from libraries, such as e-books, had increased.

At Haileybury, reading is a key part of the curriculum from ELC to Year 12 and the School has six libraries, a team of specialist teacher-librarians, a digital services librarian and library technicians. Ms Lisa Burger, Director of Library and Information Services, says Haileybury is constantly looking for ways to encourage students to develop their love of books—both the physical and digital varieties.

“Last year, we supported English in trialing and then introducing our Renaissance Reading Program for Middle School students. It encourages students in Years 7 and 8 to continue reading by helping them to discover books that are not only age-appropriate but suit each student’s reading interest and ability, too,” says Ms Burger.

“We’ve also made our libraries more welcoming. We’ve got new shelving, lots of books on display, there is more comfortable seating and study spaces. Libraries also have a 'wishlist' where students can list books that they’d like us to buy and we purchase from those lists.”

Haileybury celebrates key literacy events such as Book Week, organised by the Children’s Book Council of Australia, and the Premiers’ Reading Challenge initiated by the Victorian Department of Education and Training.

“Book Week is big at Haileybury,” says Ms Burger.

“We invite authors and illustrators to come and talk to the students about their books and when the Book Week shortlist is announced, we ask our children to read those books themselves and judge them and then decide which book they think should be awarded Book of the Year.”

This year, younger Haileybury students also participated in National Simultaneous Storytime by the Australian Library and Information Association. The event saw almost 2million young readers listen to Dr Shannon Walker, an astronaut on board the International Space Station, read from space.

Mrs Edith Fullalove, Digital Services Librarian, has helped to build and collate Haileybury’s extensive digital library collection.

“There has been a big jump in the use of digital books during lockdown,” she says.

“As long as children are reading, I don’t think it matters what format it is. Younger children know how to get online and they have been listening to storytelling during lockdown. I think that has been a great help to our younger students.”

Haileybury’s digital library resources are extensive and include a Bolinda BorrowBox audio collection that features mostly Australian authors and eBook collections including Wheelers and OverDrive.

“We have some databases with small collections including Story Box Library for ELC and Junior School students that features popular storytellers reading aloud to children,” says Mrs Fullalove.

Ms Burger says that while schools can encourage a love of books and reading, families play an important role in supporting this.

“Reading with children from the moment they are born is important,” says Ms Burger.

“We have Middle School teachers who read with students regularly—so don’t think children are too old to read with. Turn off the television and read to your child or read alongside them.

“Research shows that the more books there are in a house, this correlates to higher levels of student achievement. Parents can show children they love reading and this is part of a valuable partnership between parents, teachers and teacher-librarians that encourages children to be lifelong readers.”