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Reading Groups

Recipes for Reading Success - a step-by-step guide to Reading Groups

What’s a Reading Group?

A Reading Group is a group of children who meet regularly to discuss books and enjoy book-related activities. There are groups in schools (both primary and secondary), public libraries (e.g. the Chatterbooks groups), and elsewhere. There are many types, including ‘Family Reading Groups’ with parents.

Here are some very first steps; your library service can tell you much more, and some libraries have packages of support (e.g. Cumbria’s ‘Book Blast’) to get you up and running…

Why start a Reading Group?

  • They encourage wider reading: supporting keen readers; enticing others; highlighting ‘fun’
  • They create a school reading culture: involving everyone; keeping reading for pleasure up to Key Stage 4 and beyond
  • They extend pupils’ reading range: book ‘tasters’; peer recommendations; ‘genre-jumping’
  • They let children talk about books: improving speaking and listening skills; validating their views
  • They make reading cool: a safe sociable space; building confidence; an ‘exclusive’ tag.

A lively reading group is a catalyst for getting everyone reading, and a ready-made ‘spring board’ to involve children in book selection, and reading events.

Who’s the group for?

  • Many successful groups have a range of abilities, and an equal boy/girl mix, but
  • Groups are very adaptable – they could be for ‘boys only’, ‘more able readers’ or older/younger ‘book buddies’, for example
  • Aim for up to a dozen children first. If the group grows, you can divide or re-shape it.

Who organises the group?

  • You – but not single-handed! Find support, from the outset.
  • The School Librarian, or Literacy Co-ordinator, is a key figure – they know the stock, and can link with the library service
  • Other teachers, as partners. Both male and female are good, to attract boys and girls.
  • Older pupils (or pupil librarians) could help, providing them with useful experience
  • Some groups use parents, or local community volunteers (check school guidelines for this).

When and where?

  • Lunchtime, or out of school hours (but consider transport options after school
  • Start with 40 minutes. If it’s midday, children can bring their lunches – eat and listen!
  • Use a quiet, informal, comfortable space - the school library should fit the bill.

How do I publicise and launch it?

  • Make a noise! Posters around school, assembly announcements, parent letters, and more…
  • Children can help to choose a name for the group: try a jokey one, not just ‘reading group’
  • Have an author or other guest to launch the group; your library service will suggest names
  • Invite the press, take photographs, provide food and drink.

What happens at the first session?

  • Make sure you have bright new books; ask your library about loans, and any ‘extras’
  • Write a ‘menu’ of activities, and let children try different things, over a drink and a snack
  • Use ‘taster tables’, with genres, word games, play sets, jokes, picture books, and poetry
  • Read episodes from new books to intrigue, and funny poems to entertain: modelling your own enthusiasm is a powerful way of motivating children
  • Let children choose what happens at the next meeting; put them in the driving seat!

What makes it work… and keeps it going?

  • Keep your aims simple and clear; talk to other groups (the library service will know some)
  • Get senior management backing, and relate it to school aims, development plan, etc.
  • Keep in touch with the library service; they’ll help with ideas, book loans, booking guests
  • Measure progress (attendance records, anecdotes, teacher feedback) to prove success
  • Look ahead: build in ‘treats’ later, to save the group flagging.

Whatever next?

  • Make links up to secondary groups, or down to primaries. Groups could email each other, visit, or go to joint events – all helping with transition!
  • Make links sideways: to other similar groups in your region, through the library service
  • Use ICT: for reviews, on your school’s website, to browse other book sites.
  • Spread the word: talk about your reading group to others, and visit others to swap ideas.

Start Now – contact your local Library Service. Good Luck!

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For further information please contact Nicola Siminson, Learning and Access Officer and Literature Matters in the North West Project Co-ordinator:

T: 01925 625059

Stockton Heath Library Stockton Heath Library
St George's Hall, Liverpool

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