This month on the SLIF Blog Network Librarian Lynsey Stein from High Life Highland talks about their Teenage Sensory Reading Project which received money from the School Library Improvement Fund in 2017.

‘What are Sensory Reading Groups?’. This is a question I have been asked a few times about our SLIF funded project.

The idea for the project was born when I started a very informal book group with two boys who had found themselves with some extra library time. Both boys were, by their own admission, not into reading or books but were willing to sit and give it a go.

The book that started the whole project was a Barrington Stoke title by Kevin Brooks called Five Hundred Miles. Straight away the boys were hooked by the story. My initial approach was to make reading more like a discussion, so it felt like we are actually chatting rather than doing work. Pretty soon we found ourselves talking about all the lines on the page!

The boys would describe to me every detail of the story as they were imagining it in their heads and afterwards we would go online and look for images that depicted what they were imagining. This sensory way of approaching a story turned these two boys into book lovers, both stating that reading in the library was their favourite subject in school.

Project Roll Out

After our successful SLIF application we immediately rolled out the project through the Additional Support Needs department and we now have little groups running throughout the school year. Pupils are identified to take part in the programme by the ASN department with the main target being our S3 pupils.

We have found that in Alness Academy, S3 was the ideal year group to target as we run Accelerated Reader programmes in S1-2 and felt that the Sensory Reading Programme would be an ideal follow on for some pupils.

Each group consists of no more than three pupils and it doesn’t matter how long the pupils take to read a book as it’s all about breaking the stories down to get them thinking and talking. We have found that if we can get pupils to visualise stories in a different way by using all of their senses, then they understand what the author was thinking when they wrote the book. 

Benefits & Outcomes

The project has been beneficial to everyone involved. It gives pupils enhanced literacy skills and the staff involved new skills in how to communicate with pupils regarding their literacy. It is also allowing us to develop new techniques as we continue to promote reading for enjoyment to all.

If anyone would like further information regarding our project at Alness Academy we have produced a guide to setting up and running Sensory Reading groups and would be delighted to pass these on.