Students explore new worlds through virtual reading clubs

Ruth Peterson | February 4, 2021

Students are experiencing a world of new adventures through stories and proving lockdown is no barrier to learning.

Bradford College Library has set up virtual reading clubs to support English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students with their reading skills.

Adventures and mysteries

Together with the library assistants, the students, aged between 16 and 18, are reading adventure stories and detective mysteries among other tales over Microsoft Teams.

ESOL lecturer Marie Pacchiarini said: “Learners from my two groups have already had two reading sessions with them and it’s going really well.”

Together, Academic Liaison Librarian Lakshmi Banner and Marie had been looking at ways of improving access to online books for the students during lockdown.

An online library to explore

Lakshmi said she was also seeking a way of using ESOL Graded Readers, a set of specially-adapted online books, to support students with their English skills. The books used by the library include a biography of Gandhi, factual books such as Chocolate and Curse of the Mummy and classics including Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Arthur Conan Doyle and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

She explained: “The trial has been so successful that we are going ahead and purchasing four collections at different levels, with 25 different titles in each collection.  We are supporting this roll out with more reading groups run by the Library Assistants, and hope to continue this through lockdown and perhaps beyond, as we expect some form of blended learning to continue.”

Lakshmi has also thanked VLE and Systems Manager Tim Gildersleeve for his work to get the books onto the system so the students could access them.

A bit of escapism

Library assistants Emma Luby and James Golab said the reading clubs had so far gone very well. Emma said: “We have a book we’re all reading together online, The Adventures of Ibn Battuta by Ross E. Dunn. We open the book in our separate groups of around six learners, share the screen and read a section of the book at a time. We answer any questions they have as we go along and if they have difficulty pronouncing any words, we can help them. The groups are going really well and everybody seems really happy with it so far.”

James said: “We sit down like friends and read the books together. The group is responding really well to the relaxed nature of the clubs. The book we’re currently reading is also a really nice bit of escapism.

Big steps forward in reading

“The groups show their willingness to learn and they have really improved their reading.”

Marie thanked the library staff for their help. She said: “Lakshmi has worked really hard to get these books and set up Moodle, and the students are really benefiting from these additional sessions with the library assistants.”

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