Tag archives: Heath Books

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Stretching able readers – and Ben Okri’s 10½ inclinations

Carnegie cubesThere were great discussions at my course on stretching able readers this week at Heath Books. We talked about the characteristics of able readers and ways to broaden their reading and increase their engagement while maintaining their enjoyment. Reading groups are brilliant. So are activities like the Kids Lit Quiz and shadowing book awards. These lovely Carnegie cubes were made by librarian Rebecca Marshall at Lipson Cooperative Academy.

A key feature of the day was exploring a wide range of books. We discussed the challenge of providing and promoting books that suit able readers’ interests and abilities without being too advanced in terms their emotional maturity.

One group on the course offered the very useful notion that the best books are launch-pads. The two books that provoked the most enthusiasm, from both primary and secondary teachers and librarians, were picture books, one with no words and one with very few: The Arrival by Shaun Tan and The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. They are great just to enjoy, and also for supporting inference and deduction, and inspiring higher order thinking and creativity. (I am very pleased to be giving a course on using picture books to support learning at KS2 at Heath Books next term.)

Ben Okri’s 10½ inclinations provoked fascinating debate. Okri was once asked for a list of ten books every child should read. This was his response:

  1. There is a secret trail of books meant to inspire and enlighten you. Find that trail.
  2. Read outside your own nation, colour, class, gender.
  3. Read the books your parents hate.
  4. Read the books your parents love.
  5. Have one or two authors that are important, that speak to you; and make their works your secret passion.
  6. Read widely, for fun, stimulation, escape.
  7. Don’t read what everyone else is reading. Check them out later, cautiously.
  8. Read what you’re not supposed to read.
  9. Read for your own liberation and mental freedom.
  10. Books are like mirrors. Don’t just read the words. Go into the mirror. That is where the real secrets are. Inside. Behind. That’s where the gods dream, where our realities are born.

And finally 10½.  Read the world. It is the most mysterious book of all.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Boys and reading

I love this picture I took in the library at Oxford Gardens Primary School. These boys got huge pleasure from sharing their puzzle book.

I really enjoyed giving a course on boys and reading at key stages 2 and 3 at Heath Books on Wednesday. We had primary and secondary literacy coordinators and English teachers, class teachers, school librarians and TAs from maintained and state schools. There was lots of sharing of experience and ideas, and fabulous discussions, about why so many more boys than girls are reluctant to read, ways to motivate them, and resources to change attitudes. These were some of the key things that emerged as making a difference to boys:

•  making reading enjoyable
•  acknowledging and valuing the reading boys already do
•  giving boys more choice of reading matter
•  promoting reading across all curriculum subjects
•  making reading more purposeful
•  making reading more active and participatory
•  games, quizzes, competitions and reading challenges
•  paired and shared reading
•  using the library effectively
•  reading aloud and modelling being a reader
•  male role models
•  involving the family, especially fathers and other male relatives
•  harnessing peer recommendation
•  up-to-date, attractive books on topics that interest boys
•  using whole books rather than extracts
•  the value of non-fiction
•  books that do not have to be read cover-to-cover
•  using ICT and e-books to attract boys to reading
•  the value of magazines, comics and newspapers

It was wonderful to be surrounded by fabulous books. One of the highlights of the day was when small groups explored a range of boy-friendly titles, and discussed ways to exploit them. They came up with wonderful cross-curricular plans.

A big thank you to Heath Books for providing the books and the venue, and to all the great delegates.