To Kill A Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies awoke a lifelong passion for literature in the teenaged Alex Wharton. Now he is applying his own love of books to collaboratively develop reading programs for students in Years 7, 8 and 9, when earlier reading habits are often abandoned.

At the low-fee independent Carinya Christian School Gunnedah, in north western NSW, Mr Wharton has been responsible as Head of Middle School for the former primary school’s first Year 7 and 8 cohorts.

Observing that literacy results dipped after Year 6, he developed a Middle School Teaching and Learning Framework. An approach that supports students in their Year 7 transition with individually tailored programs to deeply engage and help them find their own literary groove.

“We want to shift the mindset of reading – going beyond purely an academic task to one that overflows with excitement, energy, joy,” he said.”

All Year 5 to 9 students at Carinya now read 12 texts a year, selected with their teachers according to interest and difficulty, and the reading bug seems to be taking hold: there has been a 35 per cent increase in borrowing from the school library and a 40 per cent increase in male students reading beyond their assigned texts.