Claire Roberts is the Information Literacy Librarian at Glasgow College and has been running Reading Ahead for the past 4 years. This year the library has worked in conjunction with colleagues in the ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) department to get 250 students taking part and 90 completing the challenge.
How does Reading Ahead work at Glasgow College? How do you encourage people to get involved and complete the challenge?
"Our library staff collate the Reading Ahead materials and put them together in an envelope for each student. They then go into classes singing the virtues of Reading Ahead to encourage sign ups. Some lecturers help with this.
"We try to launch as early as possible as ESOL students do three blocks of study and it is important to get them engaged in the first block to be able to get them through six reads.
"Everyone who signs up is put onto the library management system so if they borrow a book it will flag up that they are taking part in Reading Ahead. This provides a chance for librarians to check in with the students who are borrowing books. Librarians send out texts and emails to encourage people to read as much as possible and liaise with lecturers to bring students to the library. We also put posters up in the library and we have previously had staff sign up this way.
"We then hold a celebration in May which is really successful. We usually have a cake for the occasion! ESOL students are very supportive of each other so it's really nice having them all together and everyone gets a big cheer when they get their certificates."
Can you tell us more about engagement and reading levels?
"This year we ran Reading Ahead with only ESOL students and one non-ESOL student who has taken part in every challenge since 2015!
"Our ESOL students range widely in age as they come from all different backgrounds: this year we had a 19-year-old sports student and he completed alongside students in their 50s and 60s.
"They also range in reading level. Those in beginner level 1 whose English is very low might be using resources that are a page long with a picture and a short sentence whilst students at higher levels choose short stories, novels and poetry."
What plans do you have for the programme in the next few years?
"We are going to try having a couple of days encouraging lecturers to bring classes to the library through running sign up mornings and afternoons rather than visiting classes this year. We are focusing on ESOL again as they are the most obvious uptake and where students seem to benefit the most."
Sara's case study
Sara is a student from Iran and has been studying ESOL for Work and ESOL for Essential Skills at upper intermediate level at Glasgow College for the last year. We caught up with Sara to hear more about her motivation for completing Reading Ahead and the impact it has had.
After hearing from her lecturer at the start of the academic year in August that Reading Ahead could help improve her English Sara went to the library to find out more. She ended up not only signing up for Reading Ahead but completing work experience in the library and taking on the role of class representative.
Do you think Reading Ahead has helped you with your English or other parts of your life?
Absolutely yes. It has affected the speed of my reading, using tenses, knowing new words and how to use them in sentences. Even with reading articles and news I gained more knowledge
What would you tell a student who is not sure about taking part in Reading Ahead?
Some students think they need to read six books for coming to this challenge [but] it is okay to read just six articles or news or books.
Do you read for pleasure more since taking part in Reading Ahead?
Because of my presentation and final test I didn't have much time to read books but I try to read English news daily. Also I am going to borrow books from my local library for the summer holiday.
Claire says: "As a class representative, Sara's responsibilities included encouraging her classmates to complete the Reading Ahead challenge. She took this role very seriously, finishing her diary as quickly as possible to set a positive example and successfully encouraging ten of her class mates to finish Reading Ahead."
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