When a good book grabs a child’s attention, they lose themselves in another world
To paraphrase, amongst others, J.K. Rowling, James Patterson and Dr. Frank Serafini; “There’s no such thing as a child who doesn’t like to read, just a child who hasn’t found the right book yet.”
We all want our children to read, but we also need to make sure that we’re offering them a suitably wide variety of books. As adults, we know what we like to read because we were lucky enough to stumble upon our preferred style, or a patient teacher or librarian encouraged us to try lots of different genres before we found the one that we love.
‘Difficult’ readers may simply have never tried sci-fi, or fantasy, or fables, or horror, or graphic novels. They may find the books that are put in front of them not funny enough, or not gruesome enough, or too clichéd.
The key is to talk to children about what they are reading: allowing them to simply say “it’s boring” isn’t enough – encourage them to offer constructive criticism that might give you a hint about what to try them with next. The good news is that children’s and young adult fiction is a booming market – the quality and range of children’s literature is outstanding and unparalleled.
The key to helping a child find the right book is to listen and to ask questions. What was the best book they’ve ever read? What are their interests? What makes them laugh? Do they like to be scared?
Encourage them to ask their friends what they have enjoyed reading – peer-topeer recommendations are the most effective. But don’t overlook websites such as whatshouldireadnext.com and goodreads.com or even amazon. co.uk – all of which have strong book recommendation tools. But of course ultimately the best tool to encourage children to read is parents who read routinely and who talk with their children about what they have read and what they have enjoyed or learned from books.
At Norwich School, we strive to constantly update our shelves with the newest literary discoveries in quality children’s and young adult fiction. We get excited and make a noise about events such as Children’s Book Awards, Roald Dahl Day, new publications and World Book Day, and offer the time and the space for quiet reading – teaching children that reading is simultaneously relaxing and mind-expanding, as well as an enjoyable thing to do.
Where possible, we try to make sure to create opportunities that truly bring books to life. Whether this is by visiting authors putting a face to a name printed on a cover or through drama activities in library sessions, we help children to try to connect with what they are reading in a way that is as immersive as possible. Our aim is to give space for ‘book blathering’, a term coined by the brilliant Professor Teresa Cremin.
Yes, we read books to learn. Yes, we read books for comprehension. But more than anything, we read books for the love of books. More
‘The key to helping a child find the right book is to listen and to ask questions’
‘We try to make sure to create opportunities that truly bring books to life’
than anything, our shared goal throughout the school is to instil a lifelong love of reading and hunger to turn every page.
Keeping reading fresh and vibrant is vital to achieve this goal. We spend time creating stimulating yet welcoming reading environments. Displays, art activities, workshops, book clubs, dressing up: these all contribute to reading becoming utterly irresistible and building strong communities with a shared interest.
We want our readers bubbling with excitement every time they see a new box of books arrive and ready to pounce on new collections. Of course, all of this relies on up-to-date knowledge on the parts of our librarians and we consider reading children’s and YA fiction a professional privilege rather than an obligation!
ABOVE: Books can bring delight to children