Tag Archives: Further education

A visit from the Reading Agency

On Thursday 1st March Exeter College LRCs were pleased to welcome a visit from Genevieve Clarke on behalf of the Reading Agency and the Education and Training Foundation. The main focus of this visit was to gather evidence for case studies supporting the development of reading for pleasure to boost achievement. Exeter College was chosen for its excellent track record in encouraging large numbers of students to enrol for the Reading Ahead challenge which runs annually.

Particular interests were :- how to weave reading into class time, library promotions, and attempts and techniques used  to engage students in reading activities.

Students working with teacher Beth Bramble from the Foundation Studies faculty described how they were gradually becoming more interested in reading after adopting it as a whole class activity. Beth has found it useful to model reading to the whole group and this is followed by 15 minutes during the lesson devoted to quiet individual reading. Students explained how the reading practice was inspiring them to learn more, and to feel more able to articulate their thoughts and feelings. It was widely agreed that quiet reading for pleasure could have a significant impact on mental and emotional health and wellbeing. As one student put it, ‘I wouldn’t know what to say before’.

Teacher Mark Rawlins from the College ESOL team described the impact of the Reading Ahead scheme for his adult students, who are routinely encouraged to explore our collection of abridged readers. Students of all abilities enjoy the scheme and feel a sense of achievement which ranges from progression to higher level courses, academic success and employability, to being able to read a bedtime story for their children. Students in particular who intend to progress to English GCSE courses will need an introduction to 19th century texts and we particularly invite them to access a variety of reading material including popular classics.

Along with academic texts our LRCs stock a wide range of fiction and journals as well as online resources. Some of our discussion centred around the pleasurable and tactile experience of a real book as opposed to the digital medium, and we have made conscious efforts to achieve this feeling of quiet relaxation with our customised Book Nook area. This is now becoming a focal point for our fiction collections and promotions, and is a popular corner for teacher Antonia Clarke’s Literacy Workshop sessions.

We were pleased to show Genevieve our Hele LRC ( one of 7 Learning Resource Centres within the College) which has a diverse student population and a variety of different corners to sit, work and read. As well as the graded readers, fiction and academic texts, it also holds a collection of texts specifically for Foundation Studies which are classified by topic rather than Dewey to aid discovery. Photos showing our proud students receiving their certificates, including meeting our guest author Tony Hawks last year, were also shared along with information about our library promotions and the launch event for Reading Ahead which took place last October.

We were very proud to show off our students and our facilities, and look forward to further successes and reading achievements within our community.

Cathie Strover

Information Service Assistant

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Exeter College Learning Resource Centres: User Participation and Promoting Reading for Pleasure

In Exeter College’s seven Learning Resource Centres, we work hard to create an ethos that uses both staff and student views to develop our service. Last year, the ‘Your Library: Your Imagination’ project was formed, led by Simon Bowler, Learning Media Services Manager. The aim of this project was to gather user feedback in as many forms as possible, including focus groups, comment systems and some more unusual ways such as post-it note walls, where students were invited to leave comments.

Post it walls 1Post it walls 2

Post-it note walls were a fun and engaging way to gather user feedback

The ‘Your Library: Your Imagination’ project was very successful and in response to the comments we received, several sub-projects were formed with the aim of innovating our Learning Resource Centre services. One of these projects explored the reoccurring user need for a comfortable and quiet reading space together with requests for a wider variety of fiction for reading for pleasure. Comments we received from students included:

“Somewhere to curl up and read would be goodJ

 “A relaxed quiet place to read for pleasure not study – nice chairs”

 “A quiet place to sit and read”

“A place to sit comfily and read”

 “More books I reckon. (Fiction ones please)”

“Larger fiction section e.g. HG Wells (Sci-Fi) and Stephen King (Horror)”

“Bigger fiction collection”

“More fiction”

It was clear from this that it would be incredibly positive to design and create a space for reading for pleasure within one of our Learning Resource Centres. An additional benefit was that it would also support wider college aims of promoting and supporting literacy for all students.

Jude Fleming, Library Services Co-ordinator, led this project supported by Tori Gower, Subject Librarian and Tammy Whyte, Learning Centre Supervisor. Following discussions about what would make a welcoming reading space for our student users, we identified a corner of our Hele Learning Centre that could be used. Through a ‘Dragons’ Den’ scheme run within our Information and Learning Services Department, Tori was able to pitch a plan for the project and subsequently secure funds to renovate it into a bright comfortable area.

This linked with another approved ‘Dragons’ Den’ proposal named ‘Fresher Fiction’ by Cathie Strover, Information Services Assistant. This project focused on rotating our fiction stock between our Learning Resource Centres, actively seeking feedback to inform our fiction selections and building a collection of graphic novels to engage our 16-19 year old student age group.

So, with a few tins of very purple paint, bright green beanbags, a new sofa, shelf rearranging and a Dr Seuss quote, it was relatively easy to create the space the students wanted. To continue the emphasis on student involvement, we ran a competition asking students to suggest a name for the new reading space and after many entries, ‘Book Nook’ was chosen as the winner with ‘Reading Retreat’ and ‘fREADom’ as runners up.

Name the Reading Space

Name the Reading Space competition winners  

The new Book Nook has been both well received and well used by our students. It has helped us to promote participation in the Reading Agency’s Reading Ahead scheme. We are expecting to see an increase in our fiction lending statistics and there has been positive interest in the new graphic novels. There were some initial issues with behaviour management and maintaining the space as a quiet reading area, but this is improving.

Successful Reading Ahead

Successful Reading Ahead participants

We have recently started using ‘positive posters’ for behaviour management and this seems to be working well.

Yes you can poster

An example of a ‘positive poster’ used in our Learning Resource Centres

Overall, this has been a successful project and we are looking forward to continuing to promote literacy and reading for pleasure, as well as aiming to improve user experience informed by engagement and feedback from the people we work with here in the Exeter College Learning Resource Centres.

Tammy Whyte (Exeter College Learning Centre Supervisor)