Having a Reading Riot in Edinburgh Primary Schools

On Tuesday 14th June our cluster schools will be coming together for one final celebration of our reading initiative, ‘The Reading Riot’.

For the past six months our cluster (Trinity Primary, Trinity Academy, Victoria Primary and Wardie Primary) has participated in a range of activities at schools and within the community to help all of our pupils to engage more regularly and deeply with texts.

When we started the project, our first job was to name it. We asked our pupils to submit their suggested names, and ‘The Reading Riot’ emerged as a winner. We announced this at a special assembly, where we showed the pupils a flash mob from a school in America called ‘Gotta Keep Reading’ (based on a Black Eyed Peas song). We outlined the year and the many rewards that children would get for participating – they were really excited and keen to get started as soon as possible.

[Pupils] were encouraged to read a variety of texts and to record everything they had read, even if it was a cereal packet!

One of our first initiatives for the project came in November with ‘Get Caught Reading’. Children and adults alike were photographed when they were reading and these were made into posters that were displayed throughout our schools. This was very popular and the children were eager to read at every opportunity and get caught reading!

Around this time the children were given bookmarks (you can see an example in the image gallery at the foot of this blog post). These were used not only for keeping track of their pages, but also to record what they had been reading. Many incentives to read were offered during this initiative, the first of which was to collect a ‘Reading Riot’ lanyard on the completion of one bookmark. Many children wrote on the lanyard card ‘ask me what I’m reading’ and were able to discuss their books with people both in school

A pupil from Wardie wearing a lanyard
and within the wider community. Children were also able to collect a wrist band after they had completed set a set number of bookmarks. They were encouraged to read a variety of texts and to record everything they had read, even if it was a cereal packet!

Trinity Primary took part in a record-breaking book quiz, which was organised by Guinness Book of Records! 6,338 people took part simultaneously in the quiz. The local press was as enthused as the children about this exciting event!

During this time, groups of enthusiastic children from the primary schools went to their local community and asked shops to support the schools by handing out alphabet beads for wearing their lanyards and talking about what they had read (we chose alphabet beads simply because of their close link to literacy). The schools then collected these beads and rewards were given for reading marked targets. The pupils and community were both really eager to get involved in this scheme.

Our local libraries also got involved in the project and ran a competition alongside our initiative. Children received a library passport, which was made especially for this project,

Trinity Primary pupils with lanyards
upon visiting Granton, Leith and Blackhall libraries. Their passport was stamped when they visited the library, and a few lucky winners won book tokens as prizes.

Victoria Primary have used The Reading Riot initiative as an impetus to move forward with the refurbishment of their library. Several authors, a poet, an illustrator and a storyteller visited the school to run events to celebrate the opening of their new library. All children were invited to dress up as their favourite book character for this. A book swap was organised by P6 which will be used to supply an outdoor library (we’re not sure what this will look like yet - a summerhouse or shed seem popular). Each class was also given £100 from parent council funds to spend on refreshing their class libraries.

Thanks to Scottish Book Trust and their funding, some of our schools had author visits during the week of World Book Day. We were lucky to have several authors including Emily McKenzie (who was shortlisted for the 2016 Scottish Children’s Book Awards), Lari Don and Mike Nicholson. The children loved meeting all of the authors, hearing their stories and doing a variety of workshops.

In March, P4s from Victoria enjoyed visiting ‘The Biggest Book Show on Earth’ at the Usher Hall on World Book Day. They were lucky enough to see many authors including Nick Sharratt, Cressida Cowell and David Baddiel. What fun was had!

In April the children were involved in a sponsored read. Through this they have raised thousands of pounds that will be used to buy new books for their respective schools. The children will be involved in choosing some of these books for their class libraries.

Two boys from Trinity Primary school mid-conversation
The project has had a visible impact: children who were not excited about reading have been bringing in books, showing teachers their filled in book marks and generally talking about books. It's been brilliant to watch. A recent survey completed at Wardie showed that children's enjoyment in reading had improved, and we’re confident there’s a correlation between this and The Reading Riot.

For our final celebration on 14 June, we’ll be performing our own version of the ‘Gotta Keep Reading’ flashmob to round off this wonderful venture, which we’re delighted to have been a part of.

Check out some other blog posts to help you get every pupil reading. Also, why not check out our resource pack on creating a reading culture?


Aurelie Norman

Aurelie Norman is a teacher at Wardie Primary School. Check out her previous blogs on building storytelling skills and storytelling across the school!