Literacy a blast with ‘reading rocket’

Reading takes off: St Joseph's Catholic Primary Enfield Year 4 students Gianni Cotroneo, Daniella Scarella, Isabella Ursino, Morgan Mitchell, Mya Callil, and Talia Burton-Vourakis, are participants in the school’s Reading Rocket initiative. Photo: Gene Ramirez

Reading takes off: St Joseph’s Catholic Primary Enfield Year 4 students Gianni Cotroneo, Daniella Scarella, Isabella Ursino, Morgan Mitchell, Mya Callil, and Talia Burton-Vourakis, are participants in the school’s Reading Rocket initiative. Photo: Gene Ramirez

Interest in reading has gone sky high at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary Enfield with the introduction of a literacy initiative that saw students read more than 16 million words in the project’s first weeks.

The Reading Rocket resembles a spacecraft-shaped bookshelf and is a visual reminder of the value the school community places on reading. Nine ‘shelves’ are to be filled with cardboard cut-outs that look like book spines. These will record the number of words students and class groups have read, measured through Literacy Pro software.

Year 4 teacher Maggie Mattson said students were also encouraged to read at home by adding the title of each book they have finished to a paper link on the colourful ‘reading chains’ that decorate each classroom. Students from all grades also submit blurbs of the books they have read to Miss Mattson through a Google form.

“Since we’ve been promoting reading and celebrating it, it has really taken off,” Miss Mattson said.

“I’ve had students in Year 4, Year 6, and Year 3 – all over – writing their name grade, title of the book and quick blurb just to tell me what it is about, so the Google form is encouraging them to share. What’s good is that this reading initiative caters for all skills.

“Kids get certificates and medals when they play sport or do a lot of other things. We were excited that we were able to give a handful certificates for reading at the same assembly we gave kids medals for cross country.”

Since we’ve been promoting reading and celebrating it, it has really taken off.

– Maggie Mattson

Principal Maria Maiorana said the aim of the project was to get students reading more and to involve parents in the process.

All books in the school library are marked with a Lexile number that corresponds to various reading levels and children are quizzed to identify theirs so they can choose a book that is appropriate for their reading level and will continue to grow their skill and vocabulary.

“We’re trying to get students not only switched on to reading but also knowing where they are at so they can choose a book that is going to give them the most enjoyment,” Mrs Maiorana said.

“When they do the quiz it gives them a range so they know which books to look for that will be good for them and stretch them.

“We know that learning doesn’t stop at school. We always talk about partnership, and this is about parents and teachers both understanding what the educational agenda is and working together to meet that.

“Practice is so important in the building of skills, so Maggie has created this beautiful rocket. We also have a family reading day every year during Book Week where we invite parents to come in. Our courtyard turns into reading nooks and parents take their children out of class, choose a book and sit together and have family reading time, which is beautiful.”

Harry Potter and Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series are still crowd favourites. Year 4 student Gianni Cotroneo said he had read more books since the rocket was launched.

“I usually read for 15 minutes a day and now I read for 20 minutes a day to become a better reader,” he said. “My favourite books are Zac Power. I like them because he’s a spy and he’s got lots of cool gadgets.

Mya Callil, also in Year 4, thinks it will take about two terms to reach the top of the rocket and is reading Billie B. Brown books to help the effort. “Each book tells a different story in her life,” she said. “Big moments like the first time she was bullied, the first time a tooth came out and when she got a baby brother.”

Mya has also encouraged her peers to make use of the Google forms to record their reading so they could be in the running for a class award for reading the most. She likes the concept of the reading rocket.

“It’s a good way to start reading more because you have something to look forward to and something to display all you’ve read,” she said.

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