How to get your pupils excited about reading

Published on: 12 October 2022 Author: Jenny Pearson

Teacher and author Jenny Pearson knows how to create a class of enthusiastic readers. Here she shares her approach.

Jenny Pearson and Operation Nativity

We all know the benefits of getting children to read – empathy, understanding, learning about themselves, making sense of the world, doing better at school, to name just a few. But how do you actually get children to read, because while those are convincing enough reasons for us, I don’t think they are the reasons a child will pick up a book. Let’s face it, list these off to some kids and they’ll look at you with complete indifference and turn back to whatever computer game they’re playing.

Children want to be entertained. They want to have fun. They want an experience. And these are things they deserve. So how do we show them that reading can provide that? I don’t think what I’m about to say is anything ground-breaking – but I do know that it works.

Read Books Together

Pick your class novel wisely! Make sure you’ve read it before and know that it is brilliant. Talk about it and get the children to give their opinions. Get them to predict what happens next. If there’s a cliff hanger, use it! Make them wait for the next chapter. Use bonus reading time as a reward. When you’ve finished the book, have the next in the series or a comparable title ready to recommend so you can keep the reading momentum going. I’ve read Charlie Changes into a Chicken with a Year 3 class and Podkin One Ear with Year 4, and I would say a staggering number of children went on to finish those series independently.

Personal Recommendations

One of the best things that I have done in the classroom is spend time with each child helping them to choose their books. It can be daunting to see shelves of spines and I’ve watched children standing in front of the bookcase with no idea where to even start. Ask them questions and get to know them, find out what they’re into. Read the blurbs with them and make appropriate suggestions. Talk about the books you’ve loved and why they might love them too. You like scary and funny? You have to read this Jennifer Killick! You like powerful and heart-warming stories about animals? May I introduce you to Hannah Gold – I bawled reading this. You want funny? Try Sam Copeland, Jack Meggitt-Phillips, Stephen Butler, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Humza Arshad, Maz Evans. A funny, detective story about a girl who looks like you? You should spend some time with Serena Patel. You’ve read Harry Potter? You are going to love Skandar and the Unicorn Thief or The Strangeworlds Travel Agency or the Amari series! I know you love Strictly – have you seen Maisie Chan’s new book? War and animals? – no problem, Phil Earle is your man. Give kids what they want to start with, build their trust, and then help them branch out.

We all know that a personal recommendation will make us more likely to read something. As a teacher, it is great to read children’s books so you know what you’re talking about, but we can’t read them all and that is when Twitter teachers are your friends. There are so many who read and review books – make use of their knowledge. Also, if you’re reading this, I know you’ve found BookTrust; you can’t go wrong with one of their recommendations.

The Impact of an Author Visit

I am so lucky to have had many brilliant authors talk to my school. Sophie Anderson, Anna James, Sam Copeland, Elle McNicoll and Jack Meggitt-Phillips have all inspired a reading frenzy following their visits. If the budget doesn’t allow an in-person event, engage with authors through social media, send them letters, share reviews (the good ones), watch YouTube interviews, check out their websites with your class. Show children all the brilliant people who are out there creating the stories they’re reading.

But mainly, encourage book chat, a lot of book chat 

Talk about books and show how much you love them. Get excited about what you’ve read and what they’re reading. Those books you recommended – check in with the kids and find out what they think. When children burst into my classroom and say, “Miss! I just got to the bit where the unicorns hatched!” and want to talk about it, I go with it. Reading buzz is something to encourage. Creating a positive reading climate starts with you, but it is sustained by the children themselves.

Operation Nativity by Jenny Pearson, illustrated by Katy Kear, is out now.

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