As an all-boys' school we have many advantages but we also have some disadvantages. One of the potential problems is the tendency to lose sight of the gender disparity. As a non-selective independent boys' school we can 'become an island to ourselves' and misinterpret literacy problems.
Scotch has a strong academic tradition and a well established work ethic. Furthermore, we push all boys to reach their potential and provide a busy curricular and extra-curricular programme in order to do so.
The cost, however, can be an ever crowding curriculum and a certain 'busyness' within a somewhat compartmentalized school. Another concern is that, after Junior School, literacy seems to have fallen into the sole domain of one Department, English.
Our great advantage however, is that because of our unique status we can more easily address the specific needs of boys, and this includes literacy. Indeed, Scotch is ideally positioned to take a more integrated and holistic approach to literacy while taking account of the K-12 continuum.
The DEAR programme that was introduced at Scotch in 2004 addressed many of these issues in an integrated cross-curricular way. Subsequent feedback from student surveys during its first trial year, and literacy testing results since, has confirmed its popularity and success.
Research, both formal and anecdotal, confirms that one of the greatest tools for improving verbal and written literacy is reading. Regular reading improves, expression, vocabulary, punctuation and spelling while increasing understanding and self-confidence. In short, it empowers the individual.
Ironically perhaps (given the early 'prophets of doom' worried about the IT revolution) text has never been more important. IT aware citizens of the world rely heavily on text to communicate (email, web, SMS etc. in addition to the traditional modes.). Interestingly, English itself is becoming the global language. 'Communication' is the new power in the world and reading skills are central to this.
Schoolboys are busier than ever and the School curriculum is already overcrowded. Furthermore, the domestic situation has changed in many cases and is not wholly conducive to reading. Like it or not, Schools have been charged with a large degree of the responsibility for literacy.
A workable policy on Literacy must appear to be, and in practice be, a school-wide approach supported by all sectors. Furthermore, the support of parents and the wider community must be sought.
Implicit and explicit agendas are needed in order to engender reading cultures. Reading should not simply be an implied activity supporting other skills and outcomes. Rather, it is an explicit activity that needs to be overtly acknowledged, articulated and supported by the entire School community.
For these reasons Scotch introduced the DEAR programme for all Year 7 boys in 2004 and extended the programme to all year 8 boys in 2005.
DEAR is a programme that has been introduced in various forms in many secondary schools throughout Australia.
The general aim of the programme is to create independent and empowered wide readers, within a framework of choice, freedom and enjoyment.
It sets aside regular uniform time for wide reading. It is a school-wide cross-curricular approach that requires the support of the entire school.
Regular monitored reading for pleasure legitimises the reading process and fosters a reading culture conducive to broader literacy goals, including personal reflection and growth.
In short, some of the outcomes of the programme have included:
DEAR at Scotch
Year 7 and 8
* unless with permission from staff
INSTRUCTIONS For STAFF
Clearly announce that it is "DEAR Time".
Check that boys have their DEAR books (and that they are appropriate) and record in their record books anyone who has not. A simple "No DEAR book" and signature would suffice.
Once settled, begin reading yourself.1
When the 20 minutes has expired instruct them to finish and mark where they are up to with some form of bookmark.
Commence regular lesson.
1 Modelling An essential element of this programme is adult modelling. Boys need to see that reading is a legitimate and important activity. If the teacher leaves the room or does other work, like marking, then that importance and legitimacy is undermined.
Scotch College: ABN 86 852 826 445 ACN 005 650 395 CRICOS 00624A (Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students)