Reading Teachers: teachers who read and readers who teach

Summary of key findings

The TaRs project built on Commeyras et al’s (2003) American research and revealed that those professionals who were both readers and teachers, and who examined their own experience of reading were better positioned to develop genuinely reciprocal reading communities. By sharing their own experiences of reading, these teachers made a positive impact on children’s desire to read and frequency of reading at home and at school.

In this short film researcher Professor Teresa Cremin and teacher Becky Thomson explain the implications of the findings and how we can address them in our teaching practice.

Reflecting on their own and others’ reading practices, enabled teachers to:

  • Extend their understanding of what it means to be a reader
  • Appreciate the social nature of reading and the role of interaction and affect in RfP
  • Recognise the significance of reader identity in reader development and frame their pedagogic practice in responsive ways
  • Share aspects of their reading lives in schools alongside younger readers
  • Build strongly reciprocal and interactive reading communities.

More research details

Whilst all the Teachers as Readers (TaRs) project teachers widened their reading repertoires, documented their reading practices and developed their own pleasure and understanding about the process of reading, from the outset many expressed reservations about developing as Reading Teachers. They were unsure of the value of opening up themselves as readers in class and taking the time to share with the children something of their personal engagement as readers and their reading lives and practices. Many found the innovative nature of a Reading Teacher stance created uncertainty. They felt they needed to foreground the prescribed reading objectives from the curriculum and, whilst other changes to their pedagogic practice were made, some were reticent to risk introducing this personal dimension.

Over the project year, a continuum of practice developed. At one end, some teachers simply shared their renewed passion for reading with the children, whilst others took the opportunity to explore the scope of this more personal and creative stance, sharing something of themselves as readers and  seeking to learn more about the children as readers and consider the  nature of their different reading experiences.

As the Reading Teachers came to reflect on the impact of text and context on these experiences, and their everyday reading habits and practices, they demonstrated increased awareness of the significance of all readers’ personal preferences and practices; the importance of emotional engagement in reading; the social nature of reading, and the salience of readers’ rights and agency. They reviewed and re-described reading as a social and affective act of engagement and reframed their pedagogic practice in responsive ways to support the development of the children’s positive reader identities.

The teachers who fully explored this Reading Teacher stance made the most impact on the  children’s attitudes to reading and their pleasure in reading. They also transformed children’s conceptions of them as readers. 

It is surprising how you think the children would obviously know you are a reader and enjoy reading- they don’t necessarily – unless you explicitly tell them and give examples and show them the adult books you are reading. All this needs to be taught- I now teach from a reader’s point of view. (TaRs teacher, Kent)

Developing as a Reading Teacher represents a new challenge, particularly in accountability cultures, where tests and targets dominate. Yet the project revealed that this stance has potential. Positioned as fellow readers, the Reading Teachers talked about their own reading experiences and explored the dynamic between the children’s reading experiences and identities and their own. Gradually the locus of  control around reading shifted and more overtly reciprocal communities of engaged readers were built.

To read more about this focus see the Executive Summaries, and related chapters/papers on http://oro.open.ac.uk/ 

For example:

Cremin, T. (2013) Exploring poetry teachers’ positions and practices in S. Dymoke, A. Lambirth, and A. Wilson, Making Poetry Matter: International research on Poetry Pedagogy pp. 9-19 London: Bloomsbury. 

Cremin, T. (2010) Poetry teachers: teachers who read and readers who teach poetry in M. Styles, L. Joy and D. Whitley  (Eds) Poetry and Childhood pp.219-226 London: Trentham 

Cremin, T., Bearne, E., Mottram, M. and Goodwin, P. (2008) Primary teachers as readers, English in  Education 42(1): 1-16. 

The project book Cremin, T., Mottram, M., Collins, F., Powell, S. and Safford, K. (2014) Building Communities of Engaged Readers: Reading for pleasure, London/New York: Routledge also has a chapter devoted to Reading Teachers from which this work is adapted, pages 67-88. https://www.routledge.com/Building-Communities-of-Engaged-Readers-Reading-for-pleasure/Cremin-Mottram-Collins-Powell-Safford/p/book/9781138777484

Building Communities of Readers Cover Building Communities of Engaged Readers Cover

Review your practice

This self-review document is designed to help you consider your practice as a Reading teacher: a teacher who read and a reader who teaches and explores possible connections between the two. This professional position was seen to markedly increase the impact on young readers RfP in the TaRs research.

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Practical classroom strategies

1. Explore reading histories: What you read and influential people and places 

Help the children document their reading histories in some way, perhaps as a display, a treasure chest of old favourites or a collage or Power Point?  You could share your own history as an example. You might take the class to a Foundation/ KS1 classroom to gather box loads, revisit favourites and create a book blanket covering the desks as a rich and pleasurable resource. Prompt sheets as homework can help uncover old favourites at home. Celebrate the diversity of the children’s histories. 

You could also focus on who was important in these early reading memories (parents, carers, siblings, grandparents?) and the places (kitchen, bedroom, church, clubs, community hall?) where reading was undertaken. Create a display and discuss how other readers make a difference to us all as readers. 

2. Share everyday reading: What do we read in 24 hours?

Invite the class to collect and record what they read in 24 hours and create collages. Reading isn’t only books, but environmental print too as well as many other in print and on-line texts.  Share your 24 hour read too and consider what the children’s collages suggest counts as reading in their eyes. How wide is the breadth of their reading? Does your classroom also demonstrate this diversity? Consider what changes might be possible/necessary.

3. Share current reading texts: what are you reading at the moment?

Share what you are currently reading and create a staff or class notice board, making sure to change it regularly and perhaps showing the front cover of the book. Alternatively the staff or your class could create a treasure chest of old or current favourites.

4. Share current reading spaces: Where do you like to read? 

Discuss your favourite places to read at school and at home.  Share a few photos of your own favourite places and invite the children also to take photos and create a display, perhaps reviewing the space and comfort of reading at home and in school and considering what changes might be possible in school.

5. Share current reading times: When do you like to read? 

Discuss when you like to read and why. For some people this might be at bedtime or weekends. For others, holiday periods give space for more extended opportunities to read. Share with the children a holiday ‘reading diary’ – this could be done retrospectively or drawn up as a ‘wish list’. You might like to do this on ‘Meet the Teacher day’ in the summer and then ask the children to bring back their diaries and share yours. Use the results, along with photos and images of the texts to create a display. 

6. Consider the Rights of the Reader

Share Daniel Pennac’s The Rights of the Reader with the class, brilliantly illustrated by Quentin Blake and discuss them. http://www2.curriculum.edu.au/verve/resources/Connections_72_poster.pdf

  • The right to skip pages
  • The right not to read
  • The right not to finish 
  • The right to re-read
  • The right to read anything
  • The right to read anywhere
  • The right to mistake a book for real life
  • The right to browse 
  • The right to read out loud
  • The right to remain silent    (Pennac, 1994)

Do children feel they have these rights in your class? Do they want others? They could decide on these and create their own rights and posters. 

7. Examine the ‘right not to finish’

Have you or the children given up on particular books/texts? Have you/they been so irritated, offended, bored, or dissatisfied with a text or so unengaged that you/they stopped reading it? Share these experiences with your class and discuss why you/they gave up on particular texts. Might the class create a display of books/texts which they have not finished?  


Display of The Rights of the Reader (Cremin et al., 2014:80)

8. Discuss reading habits 

Initiate a discussion about reading habits, your own and the children’s. You could make a class list which might include the following: 

  • skipping long descriptive passages in books
  • reading the end before you get there
  • skimming forward or check backwards/re-read to find out something
  • re-reading passages to help remember events or characters
  • turning the pages down or using a bookmark 
  • flicking through 
  • making connections to your own life
  • getting lost in the book
  • Discuss how these might vary according to the kind of reading material.

9. Create a ‘Voice your Views’ slot

Bring in a newspaper, magazine, or share a blog with the class that you want to discuss. Voice your views about the issue, express your opinions and see if the class agree. Invite them too to share their views about any issues in response to something they have read. Debate different perspectives, thoughts about the writer’s intended meaning and purpose and their angle on the issue.

10. Voice your emotions and personal connections 

Books, magazines, newspapers, on and off-line can make us sad, happy, afraid, angry etc.  As you talk about what you are reading, share your emotional response to the text and encourage children to do likewise if they wish. Sharing emotional responses is likely to lead to making personal life to text and text to life connections which are highly significant in building reading communities. You could make a display of books which make us laugh, cry, get cross and so forth. 

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