I would like to explain why I think backing Give a Book’s crowdfunding campaign, to support 10 new Breakfast Book Clubs in schools in 2021, is an extremely worthwhile thing to do.

Breakfast clubs are an ideal environment to run reading and cross-age activities because the children are present in mixed ages, many of them for a full hour together, so they have plenty of time to eat their healthy breakfast and engage in activities.

We know that Ofsted approve of children engaging in enriching cross-age activities, such as reading, in this valuable hour before school: ‘The inspector commented positively on the reading focus at the sessions. (During Breakfast Club) He commented on the excellent peer support and skills in questioning.’ Emma Bolton – Headteacher, Queens Park Academy, Bedford 2019

When Give a Book generously supported a Book Club to run alongside the Breakfast Club Reading Pals project the results surpassed all of our expectations. Training and resources were given to Older Reading Pals, so they could be responsible for running Reading Pals and the Book Club, with only light touch supervision from Breakfast Staff. The Monitors set-up the resources, paired up the older and younger readers and made sure their progress was recorded. They gave out reward stickers and encouragement and then put all of the resources away, before going to class. The school chose children who regularly attended the club, who would benefit from having some additional responsibility to help their confidence and self-esteem and who needed additional encouragement to attend regularly and on time.

Initially the cross- age pairs would use the Reading Pals structure of levelled books and pre-written scaffold scripts. After a while, having gained experience in all levels of comprehension questions and gaining confidence in talking to their peers about books, the children would move onto choosing books from the Book Club. Reading Pals provided the training and the Give a Book Book Club provided the wide range of modern, stimulating books needed to keep the children engaged in reading. The Monitors acted as librarians, helping the children to choose a book they would enjoy and booking it out for them to take home. Many of the children would have a very limited choice of books at home and it was easy to tell from their excitement that it was a real treat to have such a wide choice.

An outcome that was extremely positive for some of the more vulnerable children, is that the Older Pals asked staff if they could write in the children’s reading record homework books. Some of the parents were not reading with the children at home, or writing in their reading record books. This can be quite stressful and demoralising for children who don’t have the satisfaction of having completed their homework and can’t make the same progress as their peers. While schools continued to work with parents to engage them in this process, it was possible for these children to read in the Breakfast Book Club and the Older Pal would listen, discuss and write a comment in their reading record book for the teacher to read. This meant these children could start the school day positively, without worrying about not having evidence of having read at home.

The age range of the children in the breakfast club meant that the older children could provide a positive role model of engaging in reading and sharing with younger children which authors they enjoyed.

Give a Book also provide stationary and many of the children spontaneously used their writing books to write reviews or start writing their own stories.

Some people might say that Breakfast Club should be a time to relax and this is true. What we experienced is that children who were free to choose other activities in the club, chose to engage in the reading activities at least once a week, some children chose reading every day. They were attracted to being able to actively engage with older or younger peers and to the lovely, new books on offer.

St Aloysius Infants School, Camden

The Learning Mentor used Reading Pals as the reason to invite children, she considered to be most vulnerable, to come to a free, targeted breakfast club. She nominated Monitors who would set-up and put away the books and the children worked independently, leaving her free to supervise the breakfast. All children were expected to eat their healthy breakfast first. There were other activities available so the children could rotate activities but many chose to do Reading Pals every morning. There was a significant positive impact on attendance, lateness and behaviour issues in class for the children who joined the breakfast provision. Using Reading Pals as the reason for the invitation meant more parents brought their children to school earlier and it removed stigma associated with an invitation based on low income alone.

The Forest Academy – Rebecca Hancock, Literacy Coordinator, PhD with specialist interest in literacy

Good news though… We kicked PALS off last Friday. It’s going really well. Each person has their own partner that they always read with – I’ve done it this way so that we always have the two year age gap.Every member has their own pass/badge that they wear all day (and love). They also receive one sticker every time they read and a bonus point (points they collect to spend in the prize shop) if they read two days in a row. We are going to have ‘reading pair of the week’ in our celebration assemblies too.’

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