“I want my kids to read for pleasure but I just don’t know how to get them to get there”
As a teacher, you see posts like this quite often, in many different guises on Twitter/Facebook. While I’m no expert in the field, I thought I’d share some different ways over the next few weeks that I’ve used in my own classroom that helps to promote reading and gets children reading for pleasure. I will say this: it’s not a do it once and you’re sorted kind of thing. It’s a cultural shift and it’s something that needs work constantly.
(Yes there’s 20449304 blog posts about this on the internet, but I wanted to share my own experiences in case they help others!)
For me, the most important thing is that teachers read themselves. Read the books you expect your children to read. Reading children’s books is a total and utter joy in my life and I think it helps so so much that I have knowledge of what the children are reading so I can have meaningful conversations about the books. There’s nothing quite like talking to a child about a book when they finish and talking about what you thought about it and comparing your reading experiences (favourite part, favourite character, the emotions you went through etc.) Kids know when you’re being genuine with them. Make time in your life to read the books the children are reading – kids books are brilliant!
Once you’ve started to read books for children, you can start having those conversations and recommend books to them. My favourite thing is helping a child choose the book they’re looking for. “Miss I love books with magic in them/Miss I’m looking for a book that will make me laugh/Miss I’m looking for a book that’s about a brother and sister”. These are genuinely things children have said to me, and let me tell you, because I read so much, I can recommend books to children. It also helps when they GENUINELY have no idea what they like to read. You can work through a list of things and whittle it down to a book or two that they can have a go at reading.
One thing that I really love in my classroom is my ‘Miss Elliott’s Recommended Reads’ book (I definitely magpied this idea – I saw the brilliant Emily Weston on twitter promote this and stole it instantly!). When I’ve read a book that I know will be going in my classroom library and I want to recommend it to the children, I will write a review of it in the book. I give a short summary, reasons I enjoyed it and a rating. The children are free to access this at any time and they can use it to find books they might enjoy! We even have a ‘Year 6’s recommended reads’ book which is exactly the same thing, but the reviews are all written by the children!
Another thing I started recently to encourage the children to talk about books more openly and to chat with me about what they’re reading is another idea I stole from twitter (Miss Minoli Y6 was who I stole this from). I write short messages on post it notes and stick them in books for the children – it could be something as simple as stating that I enjoyed it; it may be a reminder that there’s a sequel, or that it is book 2 and they need to read book 1; it could be a recommendation for what to read next! My kids get very excited when they see a post it note in their book!
Building a collection of books you’d recommend to the children
As a reader, I personally read an awful lot of fantasy. If you look at my shelves, I’d say there’s 60-70% fantasy there and the rest is contemporary. I can appreciate that for my children they need a much more varied diet of books to read and choose from. I’m very lucky to have this platform, so I get sent a lot of books that can go in my classroom library, but I also buy an AWFUL lot of books that I want to read (which inevitably go into my classroom library/school library). The books in my classroom are mostly my own books – so if I ever leave, they’ll come with me – and I’m okay with buying books for my class to read. I know this isn’t everyone’s kettle of fish and not everyone is okay with it.
I’ve recently discovered the joy of buying second hand/from charity shops for books for school (because as much as I’d love to… I can’t afford to buy brand new books every time I want a book for school). You can find some wonderful books in charity shops and online – there’s a whole movement on twitter of teachers who love a good charity shop find! For example, I wasn’t a massive graphic novel reader before this year, so I didn’t own any. However, after a lot of second hand purchases, we now have a supply of about 10-15 in the classroom that the children are just GOBBLING UP.
In my classroom, I don’t have shelves for my books. I have baskets on my windowsill making up my reading area and the books are organised into genres. Last year, the books were just in baskets haphazardly, but I decided this year that they need to be organised into genres! We’ve got historical, fantasy, sci-fi, graphic novels, contemporary and non-fiction (another new basket this year that the kids are loving). I also have a pile of First News newspapers (a subscription I pay for the children to enjoy).
I’ll stop there for today, because I’ve rambled A LOT. If you made it this far then please reward yourself 5 house points!
If you have any questions about reading for pleasure, or encouraging reading in the classroom/with children, leave them in the comments and I’ll get back to you/answer your questions in a blog post.