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Wider reading at Key Stage 3: happy accidents, bootlegging and serial readers

posted on 2023-06-07, 21:14 authored by Jo WestbrookJo Westbrook
This paper reports a small-scale study of wider reading at Key Stage 3 in current English classrooms in secondary schools in the south of England. Six English teachers, three of whom were relatively new to teaching, were interviewed on what they thought about wider reading. The ?ndings indicate that because of a lack of time and absence of demand for such reading in the current English curriculum, the more experienced teachers felt ambivalent about encouraging and assessing wider reading. The less experienced teachers were uncertain about how to encourage it and whether to respond positively to students’ preferred reading patterns, such as the serial reading of books by a particular author. In several of the schools concerned, it appeared that school librarians had taken over the role of encouraging wider reading, as the English teachers focused on the technical skills required by the National Literacy Strategy. Where teachers did initiate wider reading, this was sometimes against departmental practice, a semi-illicit addition to their workload and could thus be seen almost as a form of ‘bootlegging’. In addition to wider educational effects, the lack of support for this practice has implications for students’ future success in English at General Certi?cate of Secondary Education and Key Stage 5 (16–18) as both require students to read whole texts widely and con?dently. The paper argues that it might be more productive to prepare students for this than to expect such reading to develop spontaneously as a ‘happy accident’.


Publication status

  • Published

Presentation Type

  • paper

Event name

The Annual Conference of the British Educational Research Association

Event location

University of Glamorgan

Event type


Event date

14-17 September 2005

Department affiliated with

  • Education Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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