Put them on the spot

14th March 1997 at 00:00
A Book of the Week slot is a good way of introducing children to the joy of reading, says Jonathan Rooke

I always liked the story of the teacher who, during assembly, would drop a copy of a favourite book into the lap of a chosen pupil and clandestinely whisper in the lucky boy's ear, "You'll like this one. Plenty of action. "

While the method may be less dramatic, a regular Bookspot in assembly can allow teachers to introduce and recommend books to eager children.

Each Monday, after the act of collective worship, teachers can introduce Book of the Week. It need take only a few minutes to hold up the book and tell the children why it would be worth their while reading it. Each book will have its own reasons for being worthy of their attention.

Some books will have exciting plots with such momentum that you just can't put them down, such as Redwall by Brian Jacques or Thief by Malorie Blackman.

Others will be more gentle explorations of children's lives, such as The Midnight Fox by Betsy Byars or The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson.

There will be books which have stood the test of time such as The Railway Children, and books which stand out because they are particularly humorous and entertaining. Some will have an unusually good style or a particularly strong character, and others will just be favourites because they were the books that meant something to teachers when they themselves were children.

Children really do look forward to this form of book talk, and it serves so many more functions than just a personalised advertisement.

Children hear adults talking about the characters, ideas and themes of a book. They listen to them using words such as plot, author and setting. They might hear a short passage being read to them from the book and be told why the language the author has used is so powerful or sensitive. They may see illustrations from a picture book and be shown how there are different levels of meaning within them.

The children might be told a little about the way an author works or how the book came to be written in the first place. Concepts such as genre can gradually be introduced. Teachers might even talk about what they have read over the holidays and explain their own preferences.

Over time the children are having the behaviour of a reader modelled for them. They are witnessing experienced readers responding to a variety of books. They are listening to and absorbing the concepts and language of book talk, essential equipment for children who are extending their knowledge of literature and trying to meet the demands of the key stage 2 reading requirements.

Needless to say, a Bookspot will be more effective if more than one member of staff takes part and if there is a specific focus which can be picked up by teachers back in the classroom. Particular audiences can be targeted. It may be that some boys will be less disaffected with reading if they see male teachers offering themselves as a model. At first it may be the language co-ordinator who has the confidence to regularly present the Bookspot, but with a little encouragement colleagues will follow and perhaps, in time, even some children.

At the end of the Bookspot, the book can be placed on a book holder with a "Book of the Week" label above it in a prominent place in the school. Then the children can have a look for themselves. But remember, tell them to leave the book there until the following Monday or it will have disappeared by break.

Jonathan Rooke is language co-ordinator at Waverley Abbey Church of England Junior School in Tilford, Farnham, Surrey

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