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27th June 2008 at 01:00
Dramatic work in primary schools is helping to bring out the book worm in even the most shy child, as Tracy McMenamin explains
Dramatic work in primary schools is helping to bring out the book worm in even the most shy child, as Tracy McMenamin explains

A Year 6 boy shyly asks if he can take a turn at reading to the group. He finds the right place in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which the book club had chosen.

Taking a seat at the front of the classroom, he begins to read. The boy, who is not a fluent reader, perseveres, stumbling over a few words and stopping occasionally to ask the meaning of others.

As he reads, the group at Knowle Primary School in Plymouth continues working on their books. Pupils have looked at a variety, including picture books, classics, comics and sensory books.

Children's book clubs are an excellent way to encourage reading. Create a den in the corner of the classroom, fill it with cushions and inspiring books, and your pupils will all be intrigued.

The next step is for them to create their own books.

Some Year 5 girls create a book about Lily and her dancing lessons. There are pop-up pages, sensory pages, an ice-dance page with shiny paper for the icy surface, and a page on dance costumes.

Year 4 children are making a joke book. There is much hilarity as they research their subject and put string whiskers on a tiger to accompany a page of cat jokes. A Year 5 boy creeps quietly across the room to rummage in a scrap bag for something that might work as a goal in his football book.

Later, I am at South Trelawney Primary School to run another book club. This group has decided to do a piece of drama - also loosely based on a Harry Potter theme.

Having decided that the play will end with all the characters singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from Monty Python's Life of Brian, I am bombarded with ideas for how the play should unfold.

I make a brief outline of a play that has to be changed several times as we proceed. A Year 6 boy with a stutter is reluctant to participate, but he finally decides to be Hedwig the owl - a comic part, with much squawking and flapping.

Those not keen on acting are roped in to do props and hold up some audience participation cards.

In previous weeks, the group decided to make a joke book to sell to friends, and researched how joke books are constructed and illustrated, before drawing cartoons themselves. It has also explored the world of fictional villains and created their own characters. A pupil volunteered to be drawn around to make the template, and other parts of villains were gradually added. A piece of weaponry inspired by Jeff Stone's Five Ancestors series is attached to one arm. Pirate-inspired tattoos and scars sit alongside Voldemort-style laser eyes and black teeth.

Working with each group for about half an hour each week in lunchtimes, I have tried to show pupils how books can be used and enjoyed in different ways - as references and as a lead into other projects

Tracy McMenamin is a parent volunteer at Knowle Primary School and South Trelawney Primary School, both in Plymouth, Devon.

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