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For the Love of Books

Miranda is a Primary Supply Teacher working in schools through Protocol Education in Manchester. Miranda gives us some tips of how to bring the love of reading into the classroom, even as a supply teacher. 

‘A treasure-house of wonder and joy for curious young minds,’ this is how our dear government describes the virtues of children reading independently (see page 14 National Curriculum Framework, if you have too much time on your hands…).

These sound like a smattering of bons mots that one such as St John might murmur to one such as Jane Eyre by the hearth-side – which might be part of the problem - but they do have a point. Leading children to a love of books is the lion’s share of the battle in improving literacy outcomes all round. Enjoying books is proven to have agreater impact on children’s reading levels than social class (shorthand for how many books are in the house) or wealth (ditto).

I will always remember the children’s author Shirley Hughes visiting my Infant school for half a day. She read from Dogger and drew members of the audience on a whiteboard. I had met a real writer for the first time. They existed and were just like you and me, only grown-up with messy hair and a purple cardigan. Wow! I was inspired. I’m not sure if this inspiration led to a quantifiable gallop up a reading sub-level, but the author’s visit has remained with me; associated with pleasant feelings associated with reading.

However, unless your best mate is Jaqueline Wilson, as a day-to-day supply teacher, you only have a tiny attic window through which to fly the flag for love of reading. But it’s worth a try, surely. At KS1, I like using books that support phonics teaching and can lead to a neatly themed phonics lesson - if you’re left to your own devices. I bring along dinosaurs for follow up work on Stomp, Chomp, Big Roars! Here Come the Dinosaurs by Kaye Umansky and Nick Sharratt. For older children I use Room on the Broom accompanied by various creepy accessories including a witchy looking brush that I am constantly falling over at home.

At upper KS2, initiating discussions about children’s favourite authors is a great way into a literacy lesson where children review books of their own choosing. I often get the feeling that talking about books can draw out those quieter children who choose to hold fire during most other group discussions. Everyone enjoys sharing their grand passions.

The Guardian has a fab children’s book section which regularly posts reviews for children by children. I let the class read through a few of these first, as the standard is quite high. Once they’ve seen ‘what a good one looks like’ and talked about its features,  I’ve found that children are more willing to edit their own work, to try and meet that standard – especially if you agree to allow them to email off their review for consideration. 

Having worked with a superb visual artist at a summer school for reluctant readers and writers, I have witnessed the power that minor changes to common classroom structures, can have on children’s enthusiasm for reading and writing tasks. You need a biggish classroom for this, but allowing kids to slop about on cushions reading or permitting reluctant writers to pen their ideaswith thick marker pen on A3 sheets, can be invigorating. You can see in their face that being unshackled from the desk is a freeing experience. I’ve also seen writing refusniks in early years excitedly chalking their names on the playground. The novelty of working on a larger and more dynamic canvas, outweighing the fine motor aches and pains.

It’s important to remember in all of this though, that reading is the quintessential private passion. Reading in bed is surely one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Just because we are not seeing children reading, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Sharing book recommendations and making time for children to look at websites including peer-reviewed‘good reads,’ gives them a steer while allowing them hold onto the keys to the ‘treasure-house.’ 

Do you share a love for reading? What books do you recommend using while supply teaching? Email Megan at or Share you thoughts with us on TwitterFacebook, or Google+


Tags: Miranda, supply, books, learning, author, visits, inspiration

Category: Australian Teachers

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