Great Activities for Tempting Children to Become Book Lovers

You can’t force someone to love books, but you can tempt them to become a dedicated devourer of stories, says Teresa Cremin…

Teresa Cremin
by Teresa Cremin
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Reading for pleasure is a legal requirement within the English NC, but surely pleasure cannot be mandated? We cannot make children find reading satisfying or demand they enjoy themselves! Instead we need to entice, tempt and invite them into the imaginative and engaging world of reading, share our own pleasures (and dissatisfactions) as readers, and work to enhance their delight and desire.

This statutory requirement stands in marked contrast to the National Literacy Strategy, in which, as Philip Pullman observed, there were more than 71 verbs to describe reading, and ‘enjoy’ was not one of them. The change in approach is, at least in part, a policy response to international studies (eg PIRLS) that reveal reading for pleasure – independent, choice-led reading – is a strong predictor of reading attainment (ie that the will influences the skill and vice versa).

We can build delight and desire, even with limited budgets. We can also create a legacy of past satisfactions for each child, satisfactions that power them forwards in the expectation of more: more information, more inspiration, more motivation.

Volition and agency are key. It must be reading children do for themselves, at their pace, in their own way and on subjects that connect to their interests and backgrounds, their worlds as well as others. Reading that is foist upon them, that is required, ‘expected’ and assessed frequently sidelines the reader. The former is reading for oneself, the latter reading for the system. Of course intrinsic and extrinsic motivation interact, but if our goal is to build readers for life, (not just to reach the expected standard), then we must afford more volition to the readers themselves.

Teachers as Readers, a partnership project between the Open University and UKLA identified four tenets of an effective reader-led, pleasure-focused pedagogy:

  • reading aloud
  • independent reading time
  • booktalk, inside-text talk and book recommendations
  • a social reading environment

Such practice is reliant upon teachers’ subject knowledge of children’s literature and other texts, and of their children’s reading practices. It is enriched by adopting a Reading Teacher stance – being a teacher who reads and a reader who teaches – as this helps entice and involve children and builds reading communities.

To nurture children’s delight and desire as readers within such pedagogy, why not try these text tempting activities:

Book blankets

Spread out all your books so every surface in the classroom is blanketed! Offer time for exploration, you might invite children to: find a book they remember enjoying; two books by an author they know; one book they’d probably never choose; another that looks intriguing; two books that are magical etc. Settling down with a friend and a chosen text or two, allow space to chat / re-visit / re-read / read aloud etc. Keep it informal, reader-led and social. This can enrich their later choices.

Book bursts

Select three fabulous books you’ve read (NB variety) and ‘sell’ them. You might read a favourite extract, show visuals, explain what sucked you in, voice your emotional response or showcase the author online. Children can do book ‘pitches’ too.

Book zips

Explain to the class that some picture books are unusually protected by almost invisible ‘Book Zips’, but not to those with imagination! In groups, they choose one book they don’t know to ‘read’, although they cannot open the padlock since if they do something drastic will happen to a fairy, etc!

They can discuss and predict the setting, characters, plot, theme, vocabulary and share ideas informally. Books with limited / no blurbs work best – or you can place books in zipped plastic bags, until the fictional ‘keys’ arrive!

Books from yesteryear

Visit a younger class and borrow some boxes of books. Take time with your class allowing them to re-read or read aloud to each other as they revisit the delights of yesteryear. Maybe vote on favourites or create reader buddy time, with younger readers joining you for an impromptu relaxed book share.

It is not only our professional duty to make reading as irresistible as possible, it’s a pleasure!

For more ideas, check out the examples of teachers’ practice on the OU RfP site

Teresa Cremin is Professor of Education (Literacy) at The Open University. Follow on Twitter at @TeresaCremin and @OpenUni_RfP #OURfP.

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