Three years ago I (as one of the assistants) began a reading group at our local village school. This coincided with our 10th Annual Book Festival. So, to celebrate, I went in once a month until we had read 10 books. The 12 children read each book and then wrote a review, which formed the basis of a display at our book festival. We read all sorts – from contemporary authors to Enid Blyton and Richmal Crompton – and one poetry book. I have used a few different poetry books, but the first was Carol Ann Duffy’s The Hat, which was very timely as I’d handed it out to the children just before she was announced as the Poet Laureate! We’ve also used Gervase Phinn’s There’s an Alien in the Classroom, and others over the three years we’ve been involved in the project.
Each month I went into school so that we could have a discussion, which made the youngsters feel very grown up!
The idea became so popular that I have been approached by other schools, so this year I am working in four schools – always with Year 6 children. The group is aimed at the more able readers. (The thinking behind this is that so much is done to encourage the less able readers: those who are keen readers need some sort of outlet for their enthusiasm.)
This year, I have found a real difference in ability from one school to another. Not only is the reading ability markedly higher in one school, but the children are much more mature. This makes it harder for me to choose appropriate books, so I’m always keen to hear of the experiences of others who work with children of a similar age.
Michael Morpurgo is, of course, unfailingly popular, but I’ve also had real success with Michelle Paver’s Wolf Brother and Morris Gleitzman’s Once. In both cases, several of the children have gone on to read the sequels. We have offered a discount to reading group members who have ordered sequels.
After Christmas I will be discussing David Almond’s Skellig with two schools and Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones with our most able readers and Once with the fourth group.
After reading your blog, I have ordered a copy of Penny Dolan’s A Boy Called M O U S E to consider as one of next half-term’s books. With four schools to visit, I see each group once only per half-term, now. I really enjoy having one poetry book to discuss, and each member is expected to read aloud a poem of their choice. There is always one group member – usually a boy – who chooses the shortest in the book, so they then have to read a poem of my choosing!
One of the greatest joys I have experienced is a group of reading enthusiasts clamouring to tell you how much they have enjoyed a book. What greater pleasure can there be than to have introduced children to a book they love and an author they want to read again!
Please let me know of any really popular choices!