School’s compulsory reading time is a winner

Group of girls sit reading books
Girls at Banon collège in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence sit and read their books before returning to class

Each day students, teachers and staff open a book for 15 minutes and it has had a positive impact all round

Silence reigns in a French school every lunchtime as all the pupils, most of the teachers and even some of the other staff sit down to read books.

It is a ritual that the pupils at the collège in Banon, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, started a year ago as an experiment and head teacher Marianna Lew says it has helped many of them with new vocabulary, a better use of words and a new ability to concentrate.

Taking 15 minutes just after their lunch break and just before restarting classes, the youngsters can read where they wish and what they wish – but Ms Lew says no school books and no magazines are allowed although bandes-dessinées cartoon books are fine.

She said that it seemed to be working well and they have reintroduced the reading time this session after finding that the students appreciated the calming period, their parents felt they were learning better and the teachers felt that the atmosphere in the school was better.

The reading sessions are even being credited with a reduction in the number of pupils being excluded from class.

Ms Lew started the reading sessions after hearing that a Turkish school had done something similar about 15 years ago and started it as an experiment, not really expecting it to last. She told France 3 Provence Alpes: “We said it would work for three or four times but here we are months later and it is still going.”

She said the children got into the reading habit and set aside reading time when they were on school trips or at the weekend.

An association – Silence, on lit! – is promoting the idea in France and it has started in other schools such as Ecole Sainte-Thérèse in Lorient, Brittany; Lycée Etienne Bezout in Nemours, Seine-et-Marne, and elementary schools in Moulin de Marck, Pas-de-Calais, and Vachères, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. 

School inspectors have also recommended that it be expanded and education department officials have given the Ministry of Education a presentation on how it has worked.

In the upcoming November issue of The Connexion newspaper we look at other innovations being tested in French education as we interview a teacher and an education journalist on banishing the myth of unhappy teachers still pushing old-fashioned learn-by-rote methods. There is still time to subscribe and get your copy delivered to your door – check our subscription page here.

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