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Reading initiatives with and without technology. Ideas to keep children reading

Updated: Sep 11, 2018

Number 1 in my series of blog posts about reading. This one will be about reading initiatives focusing on how school librarians have used social media and popular culture to attract readers and how to keep children reading into secondary school.

I can't claim to be an expert in reading initiatives but there are plenty of people out there who are. I spend a lot of time following these experts on twitter and Facebook so I thought that I would start there. I particularly like the ideas that I can connect with, that I can easily see myself trying so lets start with what I have found recently.

Simon Smith @smithsmm a principle, writes a brilliant blog about children's books which I would recommend that you follow. He has just recently written a series of posts with book suggestions for yr1 through to yr6 so whatever year group you are looking for it is there ready for you. I believe that picture books are for everyone and I love that Simon decided to start with yr 6. So often teachers don't always see the value of picture books for older children.

Every year I work with a year 5 group shadowing the Greenaway awards books and have always found that even picture books aimed at the youngest children can be enjoyed by older children. I always have a discussion about who has to read picture books to children. We talk about who these books have to appeal to. After the obvious answers we then get to the fact that adults have to enjoy them as they are the ones who has to read them over and over again. This makes our yr 5's think about these books in a different way. The Greenaway list is great as it has a real mixture of books, some of which are really only suitable for older children.

@_Reading_Rocks_ is full of great ideas and they even have a twitter chat #RR_chat. As an example there was recently some great ideas being shared about how to use wordless picture books.

Staying on the theme of book chats I was going to compile a list but through the wonders of twitter I found that @WCBLIBRARY had already done one on their blog so I thought I'd share it here You never know what you are going to find on twitter, it is always worth a look before you create something yourself. You just need to be careful not to get sucked into the time wasting vortex in the process.

Using social media to engage

I had to think hard about how I had used social media to engage student reading when I realised that I had two good examples. We used Flipgrip to engage students in yr 7 with a book called Wonder. Flipgrid is an online tool that allows you to do a very short video which can also be replied to. We told them that a group of students in Arkansas were also reading the same book. We challenged them to ask each other questions about the book and that we would get the other students to answer them. They really engaged with both the book and the flipgrid. The students read, engaged and talked about this book far more than they would have done without the technology. Giving the students a real audience made a huge difference.

The other online tool I have used was Padlet. I was very lucky to have met Caroline Lawrence the author of the Roman Mysteries and promised my reading group that they could post questions to Caroline on Padlet once they had finished reading The Thieves of Ostia. I had already asked Caroline if that was ok and to my delight not only did she agree but said she would try to be online when my students were too. We talked about the type of questions that they would like to ask and as the session started they were amazed and delighted that she was responding immediately. Again the impact was instant. What had started as standard questions became truly thoughtful once they realised that she was there. My favourites were -

"If you had the chance to go back in time and visit Ostia where your books were set would you?"

"If the characters were emotions what would they be?"

"If you had to play the role of any of the characters, who would it be and why?"

The value of a real audience for their questions really encouraged them to think out of the box.

What I would like to try

I don't always get the opportunity to try out all the things that I have seen but thought I'd share a couple that I would like to try sometime soon.

Book trailers are a great idea to encourage students to finish a book and then talk about it. If you are not sure what book trailers are here are some great examples.

I would love to use twitter with a secondary class. I would create a hashtag and ask them to write a book review in 280 characters. Again I feel that the real audience and the shortness of the word count would really make a difference to teenagers but I have yet to manage to persuade a teacher to work with me on this. One day...

Ideas without technology

I realise that not everyone wants to use social media so thought I would add a couple of ways to engage readers into their teenage years that was not technology based. I have found that if you bring the books to the students rather than expecting them to come to the library you can entice them into a good book. I really enjoy using The reading game from Carel Press. The librarian selects several different genre and then choses 4 books for each category which are put on different tables. The students are put into groups and have to visit each table. They have 5 minutes to decide which book has the best start, best cover and the best blurb as a team. The time limit quickens over the session and a whistle blows to make them move to the next table. It does get a little frantic but every time I have played this game I have students demanding books that they have seen during the session. It is about putting different books in their hands and helping them to realise that there is a huge choice.

The other thing that I like to do it book talks. Engaging students by the power of your own enthusiasm. Telling them enough to encourage them to want to continue reading without giving the whole story away. Sometimes I use a video that gives a picture of the front cover and a one line description of the book. I play it with some great music and tell them to come to the library if they liked anything they saw.

Finally I love the toilet door idea. I create posters that have a picture of the books and the blurb and I put them up on the back of all the toilet doors. They are a captive audience and I love it when they come to the library to ask for something that I know was on one of the posters.

I hope you have enjoyed reading these ideas. If you have any others to share please post them in the comments below.

Number 2 will look at how school librarians are starting the year with a bang. Sharing ideas that I have found and some that I have tried.

Photo by iam Se7en on Unsplash

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