Kincorth Academy and Abbotswell Nursery: A Shared Reading Project

As part of Shared Reading, a project which runs alongside the Scottish Children’s Book Awards, pupils from Kincorth Academy and Abbotswell Nursery in Aberdeen paired up to share stories and enjoy picture books together. Alan Clark, Library Resource Centre Coordinator at Kincorth Academy, describes how the Shared Reading project really took off, involving all S1 pupils and leading to a very special World Book Day performance.   

Shared Reading – S1 and Nursery

In all the little nooks and crannies of Kincorth Academy’s library for two periods a week you will find S1 pupils sitting with 3 and 4-year-old nursery pupils reading picture books together. It’s as cute as it sounds and almost every single pupil is engaged in their book, which, as a school librarian, is one of the things I really like to see in a library!

One of our partner primary schools and I attended a Scottish Book Trust workshop in Aberdeen on the benefits of Shared Reading for older and younger pupils. On the back of this workshop, we started to plan how we could run the project together. Abbotswell were already planning for their P7s to work with the P1s, so we agreed that our S1 pupils would work with pupils from their Nursery. Having attended the Shared Reading training, we were offered a free drama workshop where the S1 pupils learned how to keep a reader engaged in a story, to ask their reading buddy questions as they read the book, and how to make it an interactive activity.

We arranged a suitable time for our groups of S1s and nursery pupils to meet and went from there.

We had copies of the shortlisted books in the Bookbug category of the Scottish Children’s Book Awards, but decided to add a range of picture books for the pupils to pick through as well. As a secondary school library, we don’t have a vast number of picture books for 3 to 7-year-olds in stock! Fortunately, the Curriculum Resources Information Service allows schools in Aberdeen to borrow books and have a large selection of picture books, so I picked out around 30 for the pupils to read.

What really surprised me was just how quickly and easily the young people took to the task. Literally within seconds of pairing up with a nursery pupil and picking their book, they were completely engaged. Teachers of the S1 pupils noticed that some of the less confident readers really seemed to benefit from it and the teachers of the nursery pupils noticed some of their shy pupils came out of their shell. 

This group worked on Shared Reading for several weeks and then we switched to other S1 classes. The classes that started later did not receive a drama workshop, but in our experience of this project it works perfectly well with little preparation, as the vast majority genuinely take to it like a duck to water!

Shared Reading – Making a play out of a picture book

We wanted to include all S1 learners in the Shared Reading project, and around eight S1 pupils attend the support for learning department for English. So we decided that it would be a good idea for this group to create a play of a picture book, with time spent making props, assigning roles in the performance, rehearsing etc, all building toward a performance to the Abbotswell Nursery class just before the Christmas holidays. With this theme in mind the group decided to make a play of Mog’s Christmas Calamity by Judith Kerr. For several weeks they planned and rehearsed their performance and it went really well. They involved the Nursery pupils by prompting them to make noises at certain times in the play (making the noise of the fire engine etc) and had asked them a week prior if they wanted to sing a Christmas party song with them at the end, seeing as the book finishes with a Christmas party. They sang 'Jingle Bells' in a rendition that also included the ringing of actual bells! It went so well that they took the performance on the road to a local care home where it was well received by the residents.

A month later, Aberdeen City Library Service asked if the group would like to pick one of the shortlisted books in the Bookbug category of the Scottish Children’s Book Awards to perform it to the Abbotswell Nursery children at Kincorth Library on World Book Day, and offered to try to get the author of the book they chose to attend the event.

The group were asked with only around 4 weeks until World Book Day but they accepted the challenge and picked Mouse’s First Night at Moonlight School. They felt it was the most relevant book to perform for the nursery pupils as they would be moving to the primary school soon. As luck would have it Simon Puttock was available to come to Aberdeen for the event, so the kids started preparing, making props and rehearsing. As the characters play hide and seek in the book, the group decided that the nursery pupils should play hide and seek as well, to look for Owl, Bat, Cat and Mouse and because they loved singing at Mog’s Christmas Calamity the nursery wrote a song to fit with the themes of the book. Despite the short time to prepare and rehearse, the group did really well, and the nursery kids sang a very cute song about Mouse being shy and loved getting to play hide and seek at the end to find the animals from the book. 

Creating a play of a picture book does require more planning time than running a straightforward Shared Reading project, but they really enjoyed planning and performing the play and it was great for their self-esteem and confidence to perform in front of the nursery kids.

Shared Reading – A project well worth trying out

All you need for Shared Reading to work is: older pupils, younger pupils, picture books and a space to read. 

Having worked with Shared Reading for the past 8 months, we plan to keep it as a regular project for the foreseeable future. Having seen the positive impact it has had on the nursery pupils and the S1s, including those who require additional support, I highly recommend running it. All you need for it to work are: older pupils, younger pupils, picture books and a space to read. 

For more pictures of Shared Reading in action take a look at Abbotswell Nursery's blog.


Find out everything you need to know about running a Shared Reading project here 

Alan Clark

Alan Clark is Library Resource Centre Coordinator at Kincorth Academy in Aberdeen.