Fostering a Reading Culture

UHST is a strong advocate of fostering a reading culture in schools. We are delighted that the Humanist schools share this passion. Schools do their best to help children to become proficient in the use of books and on-line information. They welcome help in acquiring up-to-date material to reinforce and supplement what their children learn from teachers. Competency in reading equips children to evaluate arguments and evidence and to become free and critical thinkers

Ensuring that Humanist schools have a plentiful supply of books and other reading sources is essential, though not sufficient. Teachers accept that their job goes beyond conveying information by telling and writing on chalk boards. They try to enable children to become independent learners and experience the joy of discovery. The central investigative skill is reading, and teachers try to foster it both in and out of lessons. 

Young readers at Eagle’s View Primary School
Kasese library being tiled & refurbished

Learning to read well in primary school gives children an advantage through the rest of their lives. Primary teachers in the Humanist skills have wonderful didactive skills. They are expert in developing reading competency with little more than a piece of chalk, a wall chart and repetitive verbal drills. “A cow is an animal. A tree is a plant. What is a cow? A cow is an animal. What is a tree? A tree is a plant? How do we spell animal? We spell animal a-n-i-m-a-l. How do we spell animal? And so on. Every child is engaged by this approach. No child is left behind. Children thoroughly enjoy this very skilled oral transmission of information and it has proved to be effective. Books do, however, considerably speed up vocabulary acquisition. This is why we are trying to equip the Humanist primary schools with well designed graded reading schemes, with easy reading books, non-fiction as well as fiction, and with learners’ dictionaries to enable children to look up unfamiliar words.

Textbooks are used to support learning both within lessons and for preparatory and follow-up reading out of lessons. For this to happen there must be sufficient copies of a textbook to ensure that there are no more than 3 children per book. A decent subject textbook eases the burden on the teacher and empowers children. Textbooks free teachers from mindless dictation and endless writing of notes on the chalk board. They allow students to read in preparation for a lesson, to make notes after the lesson on points they missed or misunderstood and to see the correct spelling of words. Online resources such as Wikipedia and RACHEL, and attractive reference books in a well-stocked library also provide valuable reading and learning opportunities outside lessons.

Reading for Pleasure Competitions, which stopped during Covid, are restarting this year. Students enter the competition by borrowing and reading 5 books from the library. They write a brief review of a chosen book and say why they would encourage others to read it. A short list of finalists is drawn up and each presents a review in front of other students. Winners receive prizes of a dictionary and money to spend as they wish. The competitions are very popular. A current new English teacher at Mustard Seed school explained that winning the competition inspired him to go to university and return to his school as a teacher.
Girl in Reading for Pleasure Competition at Isaac Newton..

UHST supports 11 schools with over 4,000 students. Our aim is to raise enough money each year to be able to flood each school with books. We want to help the schools to foster a reading culture. This will enable students of Humanist schools to become independent enquirers who are motivated to understand the world and to identify and resist mis-information and indoctrination.