How to use the Great Books Guide to transform your bookshelves
Published on: 16 October 2023
Education consultant Rachel Clarke describes how to use the Great Books Guide to audit the book corners in your school.
Book corners are a long-standing feature of most primary classrooms. Teachers recognise the importance of having a ready supply of reading material, a place to read and a means of promoting reading as a fun and pleasurable activity. The inclusion of book corners in the Department for Education's Reading Framework (July 2023) has ensured that they are now under greater scrutiny. For English subject leaders, this means thinking about what a good reading corner looks like and how to ensure it promotes reading for pleasure.
Does it need to be a corner?
Not all classrooms have the space for a dedicated book corner and a dedicated shelf or box of books can do the same job. The main thing to remember is that the focus is the books. Ensuring that they are in good physical shape, easy to find and enjoyable reads is essential.
How should the book corner be used?
Children should be able to find books to read during class-based independent reading and for reading at home. The books they select should be their own choice, although recommendations from teachers and other children may be used to guide their choices.
What should be in classroom book corners?
Each book corner should include a range of books that promote reading for pleasure. The collection is likely to include fiction, non-fiction, poetry and illustrated books. This will vary slightly from year to year.
Finding which authors and series the children like, and their broader interests such as sports and TV shows, can be useful in making your choices. Including copies of the books that teachers read aloud to their classes as well as other books by the same authors can encourage children’s reading. However, having sufficient knowledge of children’s books to make informed selections can be tricky. This is where the BookTrust Great Books Guide is helpful as it suggests the latest high-quality titles encompassing different genres, and recommends many inclusive, diverse books, chosen with a focus on reading for pleasure.
How the Great Books Guide can help
Making links to books children already know
The Great Books Guide includes some books in series, with familiar characters and illustration styles.
Introducing important authors
Reading relationships can be built by introducing children to authors they will return to over the course of the primary years. The Great Books Guide includes titles that will introduce children to well-loved and respected children’s authors.
Books for children who find reading a challenge
Ensuring your book corners meet the needs of all pupils by including books at the interest level of the age group but written to accommodate their growing reading skills or specific learning needs, such as dyslexia, are essential. The Great Book Guide includes books that support these pupils. It’s worth remembering that these books don’t need to be stored separately or restricted to developing readers. They can be enjoyed by everyone.
Books that make them laugh
Funny books are a great way to hook children onto reading for pleasure. The Great Book Guide makes several humorous recommendations for the different ages.
Extending advanced readers
Once established, reading habits need to be maintained, including those of children who are reading above age-related expectations. Traditionally, finding suitable books for advanced readers in the 10–11 age group has been challenging due to the content and themes included in books pitched at their reading ages. The Great Book Guide’s What’s Next? recommendations means you can rest assured that these readers will be challenged with age-appropriate material.
How do you start a book corner audit?
First, collate all the stock to see just what you have. Next, throw away any old, damaged, and out of date books. Once you’ve refined the stock in this way, reallocate the books to year groups so that the stock is age-appropriate and then audit the range of available books for each class to fill any gaps. At the beginning of the year, you may want to select some of the children’s favourite books from their previous book corner to add to their new one as a way of ensuring familiarity for children who seek the comfort of previously loved books.
You will need funds to stock your classroom book corners, and ideally this should be part of your annual budget. There are ways to cut the costs. If you have a school library, use its stock to create collections for each classroom. You can easily change these books each term or half term to keep the book corners fresh. Subscribing to your local Schools Library Service is also worthwhile, as they will provide you with high-quality texts on long-term loans. And, whilst more expensive initially, buying books in protective jackets prolongs their lives and saves your budget in the long term.
Download everything you need
We have created an easy-to-use book corner audit to help you ensure that your book corners meet the needs of all children and foster a love of reading.
Download the book corner audit here
- Classrooms have a book corner (or bookshelf/ book box in smaller classrooms)
- Book stock is refreshed periodically (e.g. books are rotated from the school library each term)
- Book corners are included in the annual budget
- An audit of book corners takes place every year
- The books are in good condition
- There are recommendations from children displayed in the book corners
- Where possible, there is comfortable seating for children to use while selecting and reading their books
- Children get time to spend in the book corner
- Children are able to choose their own books
- Across the selection of books there is a good level of representation (e.g. ethnicity, gender, disability etc.)
- There is a range of fiction books suitable for the age-group and reading ages of the children in each class
- There is a range of non-fiction books suitable for the age-group and reading ages of the children in each class (e.g. recipe books, biographies, information books, fact files etc.)
- Age-appropriate picture books and graphic novels are available
- There are poetry books suitable for the age-group and reading ages of the children in each class
- There are books from our literary heritage and award-winning books available in book corners
- There are contemporary books including recent publications available
- There are short reads suitable for young readers and older readers who need extra practice.
We are partnering with Peters to offer packs of the books in the Great Books Guide at 20% off the RRP. Order the full set, or mini packs for each age group. For every book pack sold, Peters will make a donation to BookTrust. Order online at peters.co.uk/booktrust
Great Books Guide 2023
Here are 100 books from the last year that we think are great – and children will, too!
The list is also handily divided by age group: there are books to engage and excite children all the way up to age 11.