Using reading lists to motivate all children
By Victoria Burrill
02 Mar
Reading is the cornerstone of education. Well, I suppose I would say that, wouldn’t I, as an English teacher, but bias aside, reading truly is an undeniably essential skill. It supports learning not only in English but in every other area of the curriculum too.  For those children who devour books without the slightest encouragement, this is great news, for in terms of reading, practice really does make perfect.  However, for the considerable group of children for whom reading is a chore, it is our duty as teachers and parents to help them find a way to enjoy the power of the written word.  In order to broaden childrens’ reading experience, the Galore Park Key Stage 2 English series provides a reading list for each chapter of each text book, but how can you best use this valuable resource?

Let us begin with the keen readers, for they must not be overlooked.

The reading lists provide an opportunity for some independent learning for these book lovers.  Allocate a different book from the reading list to each child and ask them to read the book over a given period.  At the end, invite them all to take part in a debate, arguing that their book is the one that everyone in the class should read. Hold some hustings, and ask other children to vote.  Hopefully this will also spark an interest in the less avid readers and encourage them to take the recommendations of their classmates.

You could also play the hot air balloon game with the main characters from their books. Imagine they are all in a sinking hot air balloon and decide who to eject. Children will have to describe and explain what their character is like and use their reasoning skills to make their case.

You could also display some of the books in the classroom and ask children to volunteer to read them and write short reviews to display alongside, as you sometimes see in a bookshop. Children could create their own display board with reviews, drawings of characters, favourite phrases or illustrations and other related work. These activities allow the keen readers to extend their understanding of the books they read. They will have to analyse the stories and characters and by sharing their knowledge with others they will consolidate their own understanding.

Now to the book dodgers! 

There are a number of ways to encourage children to try new books and often it only takes them finding one book they love to revolutionise their attitude to reading in general. Use the reading lists to create a “bingo” grid of books and give it to the children.  Each time they complete a row or a column, they can earn a reward (based on your school rewards system or an actual prize).  You could buddy children up to complete it in pairs - this interdependency might act as effective encouragement. The competitive element can often add a bit of excitement to an activity that some deem to be uninteresting.

You could also start a book club. Select a group of children and ask them to choose a book from the reading list that they will all enjoy at the same time. They can then read it at the same time and even better if some time can be found for them to sit with an adult and talk about it.  As a teacher or parent, you could read it too, setting a great example of the value and enjoyment of reading.

Other simple ways to make reading fun include offering graphic novel versions of books or finding books from the reading list as audiobooks and having the pupils read along whilst listening (ensure it is an unabridged audiobook for this to work).  This can take the pressure off for some children who find the written word to be intimidating.

Finally, you could give a different book on the reading list to each of a group of reluctant readers. Ask them only to read the first chapter and then to come back and report to the group on whether it was any good. You can then give them the choice of carrying on with their book, or choosing a book that somebody else started. This can make it more fun as they work together, and by only asking for one chapter to start with, the reading should seem more manageable. Children will also have some ownership over their book choices.

Ultimately, reading should be enjoyable. It is not just a skill, it is not just for school.  Reading is for life. Experiment with different books, make it fun, make it collaborative and make it rewarding. Most of all, persevere. There is a book out there for everyone!

Victoria Burrill is the author of our engaging English at Key Stage 2 textbook range.
Check out some sample pages here.


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