Harris Academy Chafford Hundred is a secondary school with academy status in Essex. Its Learning Resources Manager, Alexis Lock, was finding that some students in Key Stage 3 found it far easier to engage with reading than others. She, therefore, wanted to find a way to allow every student to become immersed in the books they read, and develop deeper and more meaningful relationships with the characters within them.
“Trying to get them engaged in reading is half the battle. Sometimes I have students who are what we call ‘reluctant readers’ and just getting them engaged is important.”Alexis Lock, Learning Resources Manager, Harris Academy Chafford Hundred
To solve the problem, Harris Academy chose to adopt the Juniper Book Awards programme for all of its students in Years 7, 8 and 9. This programme invites students to read six shortlisted books, from which they could vote for their favourite and write their own online reviews and comments. Schools are also encouraged to help students develop their own creative ideas related to the books, such as video trailers, music, dance, poetry and art, and submit these for special Juniper awards.
With awards for creative ideas, best pupil reviews and most innovative school, the Juniper Book Awards enables all pupils to participate with their skills, including those who may not be natural readers. It’s in this area where Harris Academy has been particularly successful, winning the award for Most Innovative School in 2020.
Harris Academy has found that the Juniper Book Awards has made a huge difference in encouraging KS3 children to read and engaging more readers. It’s helped them use the experiences they read about to develop empathy for people in the outside world – and to use their skills in ways that boost their self-esteem and confidence.
The school found it particularly useful during COVID-19 restrictions, where most students had to be schooled from home for long periods of time: being able to run the Juniper Book Awards programme remotely helped the students retain a level of normality in their learning.
The staff at Harris Academy give students the flexibility to read any number of the books on the shortlist between just one and all six. Giving students this control has helped them respond positively to the programme, and as many as 90% came back to read another book after completing their first one.
“My strong belief is that reading is fantastic. But sometimes, giving students that extra bit of creativity, whether it’s music, a live-action book trailer, animation or art, gets them so engaged in it. And they love doing it.”Alexis Lock, Learning Resources Manager, Harris Academy Chafford Hundred