Getting kids into reading – tips from Blue Peter judging schools

Published on: 31 January 2017 Author: Charlotte Jones

Here's how to get a class discussing books and having fun – read some brilliant advice for teachers from the schools judging the Blue Peter Book Awards.

Twelve schools from across the UK are currently voting for their favourites from the Blue Peter Book Awards 2017 shortlist.

Taking part in a big book award offers awesome opportunities. Anyone can apply to join in next year, but you don't have to – there are loads of great ways to raise the profile of reading, provoke discussion and have fun, too.

It's all in the Blue Peter motto:

Have a go - Have a laugh - Think big.

More on the Blue Peter Book Awards 

Have a go

Many of the Blue Peter judging schools meet for weekly book clubs, doing lots of extra activities around their chosen books.

Dromore Central Primary School in Northern Ireland used the Blue Peter Awards as a way to kickstart their Friday lunchtime reading club, but they are hoping to keep all the children coming long after it has finished.

Having a focus like a club can be really useful for giving children who don't often read at home a sense of purpose, as well as giving those who do read the chance to try out new things, such as graphic novels.

Teacher Adam Parkhouse took it one step further at Cantley Primary School, Norfolk. Given the opportunity to redesign his classroom, Adam built a reading corner that is now one of the standout features of the school. 

He then used a dedicated week of reading to turn the space into an after-school 'bookshop' for parents, carers and pupils to come and see the books that usually sit on shelves and barely get noticed. This had a great take up, with parents choosing books for themselves to take away.

Have a laugh

Discussing books is about more than just book clubs and writing reviews. At Education Village in County Durham, they make reading packs for the children, containing fun things like a bookmark with space to record all the books the children have read. There are also fun activities: design an alternative book cover, the best adjectives to describe the books, crosswords, and more.

At Dromore, the reading log is full of children's opinions about the books they read, as well as drawings - and they are running a mini competition to see who has the most colourful log from each class. 

The school have even posted a video to show how exhilarating reading can be. They must be getting in some practice, now - one lucky Blue Peter judging school will get to appear live on Blue Peter on World Book Day!

Think big

Cantley Primary School entered the World Book Day Award with a display of maps in books, and they asked Blue Peter Award-shortlisted author Kieran Larwood to send them a map to add to it via Twitter - which he did.

'The children are excited to hear the authors getting directly in touch', Adam said, 'and we all couldn't believe it when Cressida Cowell herself retweeted our display!'

It just proves that you don't need to be judging an award to get in touch with an author - they're on Twitter!

At Downsbrook, meanwhile, the school librarian arranged for Children's Laureate Chris Riddell to come into school to meet with the children taking part in the Blue Peter Awards judging and to hand out the books. He even joined in with the school's mannequin challenge...

And at Education Village, they are turning their voting into an event by holding a judging party. Pupils will cast their votes just like an election, and then illustrator Liz Million is coming into school to do a session with them and give them a participation certificate. Parents and carers are also invited along, making it a properly family affair.

Reading books could even be your chance to be a celebrity! Two pupils from Riverside Primary School went on Radio Devon to talk about what they've been reading - and they were so good, they've been invited back to update people on how it's going.  

Get excited

Judging a book award is definitely a great way to get kids enjoying reading:

Sarah Burke, teacher at Porth Y Felin in Wales, said:

It's a pleasure to see the children constantly walking the corridors with their books in their hands, especially the boys! Pupils say it's given them a purpose to their reading, and opened their eyes to books they might not otherwise have chosen. Children are constantly discussing books with friends - it's really taken over, in a good way. 
It's a long time since I've seen so many pupils so excited about their reading.

But the final word has to come from the children themselves. Here's what Ellie and Lucy, Knightswood Primary School, had to say about the whole experience:

It was fun criticising the books saying what we liked and what we didn't, it helped us with our spelling in our writing and helped us to make our stories more exciting.
It's really cool how we got to participate in such a big thing. It got us reading more because we had a deadline, so we didn't spend as much time on our phones. It influenced our family and friends to read with us.