Addressing a literacy conference at the Institute of Education in London this week, Nikki Gamble recommended that school libraries should stock themed books, such as the Rainbow Fairies series, traditionally looked down on by teachers.
"We sometimes take the view that because these are books children will read on their own we don't need to have them in school," she said. "But because they are so bland in terms of character, they offer a template into which you are able to read yourself. If there are only four character types in a book, there will be one you can relate to for sure."
Ms Gamble said that books with unusual covers or additional features appeared more interesting to children. She cited Fairy Shopping by Sally Gardner, which came with its own "fairy credit card", and Pirateology by Dugald Steer, which had a cover encrusted with fake rubies.
"Because they are special books, they can be aspirational," said Ms Gamble.
"Children want to hold this special object."
Teachers should not underestimate the power of picture books as literary tools, she said. "Some give access to irony, to metaphor. They express thoughts about the world. They are a link to writers such as Shakespeare and Sheridan."