10 key takeaways from the International Reading Conference 2023 (IRC2023)

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In June 2023, Reading Solutions UK hosted a free online International Reading Conference in which educators from across the globe heard from thought leaders in education, literacy experts, and EdTech specialists on best practices to:

  • Develop a reading culture.
  • Accelerate students' reading growth.
  • Increase students' motivation to read.
  • Encourage reading for pleasure.
  • Implement digital reading strategies to ensure success.

Over the three days, some common themes emerged, which we would like to share with you all to inspire your practice.

1. Sharing knowledge

If you're looking to upskill, then the importance of sharing knowledge cannot be understated.

Knowledge can come from other teachers in your school, neighbouring schools, and even the broader community of educators on social media. If you are passionate about a subject or have an area of expertise, impart this to your colleagues or offer it to other schools in your local authority as CPD sessions – you never know, you may be provided CPD sessions in return.

2. Technology

Regarding more innovative uses of technology to increase engagement and interactivity, EdTech specialist Mark Anderson noted that sometimes no technology is best, mainly if not used effectively.

However, many speakers praised their consistent use of one-on-one iPads and the reading development programme Reading Plus.

3. Reading spaces

Many speakers mentioned the lack of a library within their schools, so they carefully and deliberately curated reading spaces using corridors, cupboards, and corners to create comfortable, casual, and inviting environments to encourage students to read for pleasure.

4. Reading rewards

Celebrating students' reading successes with all school staff and through certificates and newsletter mentions are great ways to encourage students' reading motivation and enjoyment.

Leanne Sayer, Teacher and Online Reading Lead at Ribbon Academy, shared that reading rewards in her school included tokens for a book vending machine and an opportunity to crack the code to 'The Cube' – a clear box with a prize inside.

Prizes don't have to be expensive, and Leanne shared that she sought support from her local community and business to donate prizes.

5. Reading for pleasure

Many speakers reflected on DfE reading for pleasure expert Teresa Cremin's sentiments that reading aloud is instrumental to reading for pleasure.

Teresa also shared reading needs to be led by learners and supported by educators and directed participants to the reading for pleasure website for further information.

6. Diversity and inclusion

The importance of text choice, particularly diversity within texts, was a sentiment echoed by all speakers. Professor Rudine Bishop's 'Windows and Mirrors' analogy was used to describe the significance.

Mirrors are instances where the reader can see themselves reflected within texts. This differs from windows, which offers the reader a view of experiences and lifestyles outside their own. Whether this is a story about a different culture, identity, or an event they have never experienced, this window expands their understanding, compassion, and perception of a concept they were unaware of. And for those whose life experiences have historically been forgotten, ignored, or misrepresented, these mirror texts are a long overdue reflection that works to empower, affirm, and inspire them.

Teresa noted that window and mirror texts aid reading for pleasure, claiming schools need a balance of 'old and gold, new and bold, and diverse texts'.

7. Personalised learning

Each session stressed the significance that there is no 'one size fits all' approach -personalised learning is essential.

Rewards should have a personalised scale for different groups, such as year groups, SEND pupils, and weaker readers.

8. Cross-curricular reading culture

Reading must be integrated across the curriculum to build a whole school reading culture effectively. As reading is the curriculum's gateway, students will improve in all curriculum subjects.

Staff should not be passive. Speakers advised that each subject teacher should be invested and have ownership over integrating reading development into their teaching and recommended CPD to achieve this.

9. Connections

The 'Reading House' model (adapted from Hogan, Bridges, Justice, and Cain, 2011) was frequently discussed. This reflects the connections between each reading skill and overall reading comprehension.

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Tips on strengthening the foundations include pre-teaching Tier 2 vocabulary and introducing books to the curriculum that link to those taught in earlier years.

Now what?

Hopefully, these takeaways have been helpful if you were looking for a few strategies to get your students to read effectively, efficiently, and for enjoyment.

Finally, if you feel overwhelmed after reading this list, here is one last takeaway from Reading Solutions UK's IRC23.

10. Relax

You will not be able to implement every single strategy – and you don't have to. Gradually launch and customise the methods you see fit. If they don't work, they don't work. You know your students best. Try another strategy until you find one that sticks.

To find out how Reading Solutions UK can help enable your students to read effectively, efficiently, and for enjoyment, visit their EdTech Impact profile page or email [email protected].

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