I used Reading Rivers myself at the start of the school year to learn more about my new class. It’s essentially a creative task whereby the children make a visual collage of all the reading and texts that they encounter within a given time period (e.g. 24 hours or a weekend). The children can be given the option to cut and stick photographs, snippets of articles or train tickets, print off pictures of book covers or magazine logos, or even simply draw images to represent what they have read. See this example below by a Year 5 child:
The reading rivers allowed me to reflect on the reading practices and interests of the children and it gave invaluable insight into their reading engagement at home, their reading habits (e.g. online, tablets, kindle) and preferences, which could then be acted upon. For instance, we introduced a magazine corner and invested in more poetry for our book corner as this was something which didn’t appear on a single river!
Subsequently, I found myself wondering how to find out more about their writing practices. There is always a huge amount of focus on promoting reading for pleasure, but I’m keen to give the same weight and importance to writing for pleasure too. During early development, children mimic the language that they see and hear, later on in their childhood they are read to (hopefully!) with regular bedtime stories at home… but how often is writing modelled to them by others? How often do they write for pleasure at home? If they are writing at home, what are they writing? This is a question I was keen to delve into with my current class so I set about tweaking the Reading River concept and so the Writing River was born!
These activities certainly increased my own awareness of what it means to read and write and it enabled the children to reflect on how important the role of literacy is in our daily lives. It’s a simple, yet incredibly effective way of gaining helpful insights into children’s daily reading and writing routines, but also (perhaps more importantly) for the children themselves to make the connections between their home and school literacy practices, as well as writing for pleasure and purpose.