Aim: To encourage a habit of reading for pleasure among Key Stage 3 students with the hope that this will lead to more scholarly and independent learning habits at Key Stage 4 and 5.

Background: Students in Key Stage 4 and 5 were enthusiastic but often lacked independent reading skills and were reluctant to read beyond the curriculum, sometimes struggling to read core GCSE and A Level texts. We also aimed to increase the numbers of students applying to read English Literature at the top universities.


Year 1: Reading was given more space in the curriculum to enhance its status and comprehension and reading for meaning was given more prominence from across the curriculum. Book boxes were made available for all Year 8 literacy lessons, and 40 titles were carefully curated to feature a range of classic and contemporary texts that showcased good quality writing and explored meaningful themes. For one lesson every fortnight, students had to read a book from the box. By limiting their reading choices their reading could be monitored and they would have more opportunities to discuss the books they had read with peers and teachers.

Year 2: Qualitative data was collected at the beginning and end of the year for a focus group of Year 8 students to measure changes in reading habits and scholarship. All Year 8 students completed an online survey which assessed the texts they had read, their attitudes to reading at the start and end of the year, the variety of genres they had tried, and their comments about the programme.

Year 3: The department had become really committed to the project due to its influence on students’ reading habits. The reading lesson was moved to the library to allow students to use library software to review, rate and recommend books to others. This requires students to start being critical and evaluative about their reading.

Evidence: Online student surveys, focus groups.

Impact: Reading habits have improved, with 66% reading more books and, significantly, 75% trying different genres. Students’ enthusiasm was evident in online surveys, with 78% of them saying that they would like a Year 9 book box. Students have also requested time to share their responses to books.

Reflections: When looking at the new specifications for KS4-5 English, and the focus on closed text exams and unseen sources, we are confident that we are giving them the skills they will need to become able scholars and readers in the future.

Contact: Graham Pidgeon,