Year 6 recommendations
One of the easiest, but most powerful, ways to get children sharing and discussing books with each other is by being a ‘reading teacher’ and by recommending books to the class yourself (if you're not already aware of Teresa Cremin's Teachers as Readers report, then you need to explore it as a matter of urgency!). Try and find the time to talk about at least a couple of books each week; tell them why you enjoyed it and why you think they will, compare it to similar books they may know, read them the blurb and an exciting extract and then leave it somewhere prominent in the classroom. It will definitely have been borrowed by the end of the day! Once the children see you recommending books that you’ve actually read (as opposed to recommending books where you’ve just whizzed through the blurb) they’ll start to do it as well.
Although being forced to regularly write book reviews can quickly kill a love of reading, it doesn’t always have to be so painful. A two sentence mini-review, written in a brightly coloured gel pen on a fluorescent sticky note and then stuck on the front cover of the book, is a lovely way to share recommendations. Writing Twitter reviews to be shared with other classes also helps give the children a real audience for their opinions.
Reading to Key Stage 1
When a child has particularly enjoyed a book, encourage them to fill in an 'If you liked reading...then try...' bookmark which can be passed on to another child (templates are easily available online). We have an exercise book in our reading area called 'If you liked reading...', where lots of children's authors are listed. The children then update the book by recommending similar authors (eg If you liked reading the Alex Rider books by Anthony Horowitz, then try the Jimmy Coates books by Joe Craig or the Young James Bond books by Charlie Higson and Steve Cole). It's great to see how often they refer to this while choosing their next book!
Filming short videos where children talk about favourite books can be made very easily and shared widely. We currently swap recommendations with a primary school in New Zealand. Although there are a lot of similarities in their choices, there are also several books which are only published in one of the countries, which has led to interesting discussions about books from different cultures and countries. The link to our most recent video can be found here.
We’ve also introduced a ‘Reader of the Week’ where the winner is chosen by their classmates (with a little guidance, as and when necessary…Oh, I wonder who it might be this time? Maybe Sean, who read beautifully to his little sister last night). We then add a photo of the child holding their favourite book to our display and the other children their own ‘Well Done’ comments. It definitely helps raise the status of reading in the classroom and helps make being a reader cool.
It will take time for children to develop the confidence to share their reading preferences with their classmates but, once it’s firmly embedded in the classroom routine and ethos, it’s a very powerful tool to help engage all readers and can make a huge difference to the value that they put on reading.