Hinde House School
Sheffield University Concord Junior/Infant School

Secondary - Primary Phase Links

This project examines the responses of a group of disaffected readers, within a Y8 class of a comprehensive school, to a project in which they were asked to choose books suitable for pupils a few years younger than themselves. The intention was to create an authentic purpose for reading books among a group of pupils for whom independent voluntary reading was already a rarity.

Background To The Study

The study described below, evolved in response to the language needs of a Y8 class, which included a significant proportion of pupils, particularly boys, who had shown only a limited enthusiasm for independent reading. Their school is located in a working class area, over-looking the M 1 and the Don Valley.


The Theoretical Frame

Elaine Millard's previous research had found that boys of this age were significantly less interested in their voluntary reading than girls in the same class, tended to enjoy narrative in its visual forms rather than in books, and that reading, on the whole, was considered as an activity more appropriate for girls, both at home and at school. Millard had observed that boys rarely settled down to concentrated periods of reading in class, but skimmed books for short periods of time. Paradoxically, when interviewed these same boys claimed to read more in school than at home. They also claimed they would be willing to read more if they could find something of interest , but this was rarely the case. Millard labelled such boys 'hypothetical readers' (i.e. pupils who could read but who did not willingly choose to do so).


Setting Up The Project

The class chosen for the study displayed all of the characteristics outlined above including the existence of 'hypothetical readers'. Further, the teacher suggested that these attitudes were well entrenched when pupils transferred to the secondary school at 11 years. It was therefore decided to create a more positive attitude to reading for both older and younger pupils, by developing a shared reading project with a primary school.

At the start of the study, the Y8 class completed a questionnaire in which they were asked to record both their interests and attitudes to books. Although only two of the six boys chosen for particular study, had admitted that they were not very good at reading in the questionnaire, only one of them, Simon, provided a range of books which teachers might consider appropriate for the age group.


Staging The Work

The sessions in which the majority of this work took place were of at least two hours duration. Four afternoons of TEAM time were used for this project and in addition some English lessons were set aside for independent reading and discussion of issues.

The first full afternoon session asked the Y8 pupils to draw on their own experiences of voluntary reading to evaluate the appropriateness of a range of books for Y6 primary children. The books were taken from a selection of teenage fiction, light poetry and books for readers beginning to gain fluency The emphasis was on accessible, popular fiction rather than on the more demanding books that were being studied together in class.



Each Y8 class member participated enthusiastically and their work was met with almost equal enthusiasm from their Y6 counterparts. The class teacher reported that boys, who had previously found concentration in reading time difficult, had spent long periods of absorbed reading, selecting books at times outside those specifically set aside for the study. The first whole group discussion in which Y8 were asked to share impressions of their own reading at primary school age was dominated by these boys, who wished to impress the researcher with their views The imbalance was so marked, that at the end of the lesson, we reminded ourselves that although girls were frequently the more willing readers and writers, in large group situations they often required support for expressing their views effectively. A written questionnaire was therefore used in the primary school to ensure that all the Y8 pupils had points to contribute to the discussion.



Voluntary reading is not unquestioningly accepted by all pupils. Where reading development depends solely on independent, sustained private reading, those most disadvantaged are the pupils whose need for reading practice is greatest. In focusing on identifying a selection of books for other pupils the project achieved the following aims:

For The Y8 Pupils

For Y6 Pupils

Currently boys' reading is often considered to be deficient both in its quantity and range and remedial methods often emphasise basic skills rather than tackling the need for a real purpose. Instead of focusing on what was difficult for the class to achieve this project concentrated on aspects of reading in which all the pupils involved could feel confident. It created a shared purpose for both younger and older pupils to develop their confidence and allowed both boys and girls to develop a more critical attitude to books. There is sometimes a fear that measures to address the needs of boys will disadvantage girls in the curriculum. The Y8 girls were keen to tackle the issue of boys' reading and also enjoyed working with younger pupils. One said to me, as the project finished,' perhaps we could choose books for the nursery class next time- if we started them off young they would get an even better start'

Child-Adult Proximation Through Literacy Learning

The following diagram from Reed & Webster can be used to inform the thinking behind this reading project.