Reading: a vital tool for your life

Reading is a skill that affects all parts of our daily life – from road signs to restaurant menus. Today some Shanghai teachers give us a raft of handy hints for getting better.

Reading is a skill that affects all parts of our daily life — from road signs to restaurant menus. And like most skills, it should be practiced every day. But it should also be fun, not a chore. Today some Shanghai teachers give us a raft of handy hints for getting better and having fun.

Reading: a vital tool for your life

At Shanghai Community International School, students cozy up with a good book with nursery teacher Jenna Lelievre. Every year, the SCIS Hongqiao ECE campus joins the celebration of International Literacy Day.

Read, and keep reading, for a great future

Every year, our SCIS Hongqiao ECE campus joins in on International Literacy Day, a global celebration of literacy and its importance to individuals, communities and societies.

Started in 1967, the International Literacy Day is a UNESCO-declared worldwide celebration of reading aimed at highlighting the importance of literacy, the ability to read and write.

This year, the day was September 8 and the theme was “Reading for the Future.” Students were allowed to leave their school uniform at home and come in dressed as their future jobs! Our youngest readers were also encouraged to bring in their favorite books to schools, which they then shared with classmates. 

The day is a good reminder to stop and ask ourselves: Is there any skill we take more for granted than the ability to read? Road signs would be confusing, you couldn’t order from a menu unless it had pictures, or even send a text message on your phone. Not being able to read goes well beyond not being able to enjoy a good book, it has much bigger implications that impact all aspects of daily life. That’s what I want our school community to think about when thinking about the Literacy Day.

So what can we do to celebrate this day? First of all, I think it’s a good chance for us to be thankful that we have the ability to read and all of the advantages the skill has brought us. From there, here are a few ideas for next Literacy Day, or any other day:

• Volunteer to help a child in Shanghai. The website ( has a lot of options for volunteering with kids.

• Start a book club. Why only keep a great book to yourself? Book clubs are great ways to share your ideas and learn from other people. This website ( has all kinds of book club options.  

• Start making books and literature a regular part of your dinner conversations. If you have a very young child it can be as simple as “what did you read today?” If your child is older, more detail can be discussed. Talk about how life would be different without books or the ability to read.

• Most importantly, read to your child. If you are already doing it, great. If not, today is a great day to start. Try and make reading a regular part of you and your child’s day.

(The article is contributed by Joshua Balli, ECE librarian at SCIS Hongqiao.)

Dr Seuss was right: All you need is a book

As Dr Seuss once said: “You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.”

Fostering a child’s love for reading and writing at a young age is hugely important to a child’s developmental process. Here are some simple strategies to help ignite that spark, check for comprehension, and create a valuable space for family time:

• Story time

It’s never too early to begin reading aloud to a child! Set aside time each day for a story time and be sure to use plenty of intonation while reading to make the story come alive. At an early age, begin to identify concepts in books, such as shapes, numbers, and letters of the alphabet and then connect those concepts to what they see in their everyday lives, such as letters on street signs, shapes throughout a house.  

Reading: a vital tool for your life

Faye White is Kindergarten EAL teacher at WISS.


After story time and depending on the age of children, always begin a discussion about the story by asking a few questions or even just sharing your own thoughts about what you liked, did not like, or would want to change.  

• Extension activities

Allow children to show their creativity within a book by sculpting their favorite character from a story out of playdough, making their own book, drawing/painting their favorite scene, or even making their own shadow puppet theater to re-tell a story. 

• Technology

There are many free apps that can aid in fostering a love for reading and writing including Book Creator, Explain Everything, Shadow Puppets, ChatterKid, and Epic, just to name a few.

With these apps, children can write, illustrate and video an assortment of items that engage their interests and help them create their very own book.

(The article is contributed by Faye White, Kindergarten EAL teacher at WISS.)

How do we foster a love of literature?

As a high school English teacher, I can easily see which students love reading. These students come in with a book under their arm and are always ready to share their latest literary adventure with me. Where does that love come from? 

It all starts with dinosaurs. Or at least it does with my own son. He can’t get enough of them, so we read books about dinosaurs until I’ve learned minute details about the mating calls of the parasaurolophus and the plesiosaur.

A great way to get your children to love reading is to find out what they like, and then build your stock of kids’ books around that topic. 

Make time to read them together. Before bed is the obvious one, but we also usually sneak in a book before any TV time on the weekends. 

The most important detail is to start reading to children when they are very young, 6 months old is definitely not too early, and keep reading to them as frequently as possible. When you find a topic your child likes, milk it! Get as many books on that topic as you can find.

Reading: a vital tool for your life

Adam Crossley is head of English Language Department, SSIS Senior School.

As your child grows older, try implementing a reading pause each evening, where everyone picks up a book for a set amount of time. This might even rekindle your own love of reading. The wonderful thing is that once your child gets momentum in their reading habit, it becomes like a snowball rolling down a hill. 

Be ready for an earful about Brachiosaurus. Be interested! Or at least pretend to be interested!    

As their love of reading grows they will find more engaging stories and topics, and you will find the quality of their thinking and conversational topics greatly enriched.

(The article is contributed by Adam Crossley, head of English Language Department, SSIS Senior School.)

Everyone is a sucker for a great story

I’ve always been a sucker for a great story. An exquisitely crafted and compelling narrative not only has the potential to impact a reader long after the last page is turned and the final word is absorbed but it can also foster authentic agency. 

With the aim of providing students the opportunity to design relevant, thought-provoking stories which celebrate the human spirit, Concordia International School Shanghai is launching a new high school applied learning course called Storytelling Agency. 

The goal of this new course is to provide real-world opportunities in which young writers can produce original content in the form of innovative blogs, content writing for socially conscious entrepreneurs, and young adult literature. While learning about these various writing genres, students will conduct ethnographic research and identify potential opportunities or problems to address in a specific type of narrative.

Reading: a vital tool for your life

Dagne Furth is a high school English teacher at Concordia International School Shanghai.

Applying a “design thinking” approach, students will create and prototype organic stories which seek to address the perceived needs of their readers. Students will seize opportunities to workshop their writing, soliciting feedback from concerned parties and industry professionals, until their stories achieve a mutually inspired purpose and desired effect.

It is my hope that the unveiling of this course in 2019 continues to bolster in students a love of literature, writing and service within the school community and beyond.

Great stories can inspire advocacy, awareness, support and real transformation. It is in this spirit therefore, that we hope to discover the potential agency of the written word.

(The article is contributed by Dagne Furth, a high school English teacher at Concordia International School Shanghai.)

We all need a space to grow and read

A question facing all English teachers is “How do we foster a love of reading?” For it is the love of reading that leads to a life of learning. 

There are so many reading programs out there, but do they help our students develop the reading stamina needed for college? The statistics show that most people do not read much after college, but this world needs lifelong readers: people who learn empathy through the stories they read. Just modelling good reading habits is not enough. We need to provide space for our students to read, to not only assign reading as homework, as this equates reading with work and takes away any love!

Reading: a vital tool for your life

Glenda Perks is head of English and EAL of YCIS, Pudong Secondary.  

So, our focus this year is to provide space for our students to read — anything they like. At the start of every English lesson, the students spend 10 minutes reading what they enjoy. To facilitate this, we have developed libraries, beanbags and a sofa or two in classrooms, all of which are very popular with students and teachers alike. We feature various teacher and student reading recommendations, favorite quote, and book covers in classrooms and corridors. You cannot miss the message — “READ!” 

The volume of reading has already increased, and the joyous challenge is to keep getting new books into the hands of our students. The research suggests that the increase in time spent on reading will positively impact student writing, lead to a hunger for more challenging texts, and build the stamina and endurance needed by our students for the enormous volume of reading required at college.  

Fostering this love of reading is an adventure, and I cannot wait to see the impact over the year.

(The article is contributed by Glenda Perks, head of English and EAL of YCIS, Pudong Secondary.)

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