Playing it by book

23rd February 2007 at 00:00
World Book Day can be fun and rewarding. Huw Thomas suggests ways to make the most of it?

Children in schools all across the land will celebrate their love of reading next Thursday for the 10th World Book Day. These events can take a lot of organising, but there are a few simple activities that require little resourcing and will give the event an extra boost.

Give your event a name. For example, if you will be looking at books about pirates, call it "Pirate Day". If poetry is the theme, it could be a "Poem-a-thon". The Bruce Forsyth in you might come up with a catch-phrase such as "What-a-thon is it?" - "Poem-a-thon!".

Spread the event. You could create a character trail. Ask children to draw, colour and cut out small pictures of characters from books.

These can be put up around the building in unexpected and obscure places, creating a challenge for children to track down as many characters as they can.

World Book Day vouchers promote book-buying and reading. Schools could provide parents with a list of titles that have proved recent hits in school, such as favourite novels, poetry that makes pupils laugh and most-enjoyed picture books.

Sharing books should be an integral part of Book Day. While it may be impossible to share a whole title, extracts and chapters can be shared.

Take a look through the first half of a good novel and ask which few pages really grab the reader. My favourite scene is the entry to the "Darkside"

in Tom Becker's brilliant new book of that name.

Look out for books about books, such as the mysterious blank book of Matthew Skelton's Endymion Spring or the frightening reading that takes place in Cornelia Funke's Inkheart. There is also Oliver Jeffers' picture book, The Incredible Book-Eating Boy, and Cressida Cowell's library in one book - Little Bo Peep's Library Book.

Making books is an ever-popular activity. Given that World Book Day is 10 years old, we could ask children to draw themselves as they imagine they will be 10 years in the future and write a note on what they hope to be doing with their lives at that time.

Creating a pop-up book can be great fun. Paul Johnson's excellent Making Books contains lots of easy-to-follow ideas.

The number 10 could lend itself to other activities. Children could collate "top 10" lists of titles or characters. They could come up with the 10 best moments from favourite stories.

Storytelling is something children always enjoy. No need to buy-in an expensive visitor. There's guidance for the budding storyteller on the TES website. Just type "Five habits of highly successful storytellers" into the archive (on and follow the link for some tips.

There are a few assembly games that lend themselves to celebrating stories.

Missing Title Words involves projecting on to a screen the titles of well-known stories with words missing that children have to guess. Some titles lend themselves to losing two or even three, words. Even then, "Where BLANK BLANK BLANK Are" could be a bit too easy.

In Mixed-Up Titles, book titles are displayed word by word on separate cards at the front of the hall. Make sure they are jumbled up (eg Bernard, Now and Not).

Children have to direct the volunteers holding the cards to move around so that the title is displayed in the right order. A variation on this involves mixing two book titles together.

Guess Who? places various clues to the identity of a book character before teams, who have to guess the character's name. Children can work in small groups devising a list of clues that they can take time to read - possibly with the Year 6 children setting "guesses" for the younger children.

Snippets is a similar game. A team acts out a short scene from a well-known story and the rest of the children ask questions and try to guess what story the scene was taken from. The usual condition applies - only questions that can be answered Yes or No are allowed.

Name That Villain is simple, but groups of children get very agitated playing it. All you do is pick stories where there is a "goodie", a "baddie" and someone who helps the goodie. The simple questions that can be devised from this, such as "Name the villain in The Lion King", can rack the brains.

With all these games, don't worry too much about the scores, and don't give a prose text that makes everyone take it too seriously. Put staff in the teams, too, encouraging them to help make the proceedings fun.

Whatever you do, have a good day celebrating books Books referred to:Darkside by Tom Becker (Scholastic)Endymion Spring by Matthew Skelton (Puffin) Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (The Chicken House) The Incredible Book-Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins). Little Bo Peep's Library Book by Cressida Cowell (Hodder)Making Books by Paul Johnson (AC Black)Huw Thomas is a headteacher and author of Steps in Leadership, published by David Fulton.

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