For the rest of the session I chose to focus on book selection. I wanted to make sure everyone had a range of techniques to help them find good books to read. I began by showing the students three books that I confessed I had hated reading. I explained that if all I ever read was those books then I would think reading sucked - that is why choosing books that interest them is really important.
I used the library lessons that came with this book (as a separate supplement):
The lessons talk about book selection by using the acronym "A just right book". Working through each of the letters gave us plenty of opportunity to discuss different ways to find a good book to read. I made the mistake with the first class in working through all the letters by myself and telling the class what they meant. Although we discussed some of the letters together, at the end of the session I felt like I had done most of the talking and wasn't completely happy with how it went. For the rest of the classes I had them guess what most of the letters meant, and that got them talking more.
Here are some of the things we discussed:
- Favourite authors. I mentioned Roald Dahl, who they are all familiar with, and then they shared some of their favourites. Some weren't sure of the authors' names so I got a lot of responses like 'the guy who writes the Captain Underpants books', which I then translated into the actual author.
- That authors of chapter books aren't usually the people who illustrate the covers of their books. Therefore it is not their fault if the cover of their book is boring, and we shouldn't 'judge a book by its cover'. I used the example of our library's copy of 'Gregor the Overlander' by Suzanne Collins. I love this book, with it's underground world of giant rats, spiders and cockroaches. Inexplicably the edition we have has a picture of a building on the cover. A building! The students were impressed that the author had written 'The Hunger Games', even though we don't have a copy in our library due to its violence.
- The five finger rule for working out if a book is too hard.
- Barrington Stoke, the publisher who prints books on off-white paper and with a font that is easier to read. I deliberately didn't mention dyslexia, although these books are particularly good for children who have it. Instead I talked about some students finding it harder to read books with white paper, and that for some the words might seem to jump around a bit. In one class in particular I had a lot of students nodding in agreement with this.
- I read the blurb from the back of 'Artemis Fowl' by Eoin Colfer and then talked about whether they would be interested in reading about a fairy with weapons. I also read the first few paragraphs of 'The Golden Door' by Emily Rodda and asked if they would like to read about winged creatures with pointy teeth who like to eat humans.
After we had gone through all the acronyms I announced that I was setting them a genre challenge. I explained that sometimes we can get stuck reading one particular genre and that it can be a good idea to explore them all. I said that some people who like reading adventure might also find that the fantasy section has good adventures in it, and that the historical fiction section has some good war adventures in it. So my challenge, which I had cleared with the team leaders beforehand, was for the students to read one book from each of our genres (ten) plus a graphic novel and a sophisticated picture book. This would carry on through to the end of Term 2, or later if they were still going and wanted to finish it off.
I have a special sign that will go up with the names of the students who complete the challenge, and I will also have that online. There are some little prizes of posters and stickers and they can get their name in the draw each time they finish one of the books. That way I thought even those students that wouldn't be able to complete the challenge still have the opportunity to win a prize. I had one student ask 'what is the monetary value of the prize box?'. I was not expecting that question! But I freely told him that it was worth nothing, (the prizes weren't supposed to be the main motivation, I was hoping they would be intrinsicly motivated). One of the teachers offered her students an ice cream sundae if they completed the challenge (I'm not sure what will happen when the students from the other seven classes hear about that!).
I'm happy with how the sessions went. The students were keen to discuss the book selection techniques and talk about different books and authors, and the genre challenge has already been completed by a couple of our prolific readers.