Bookbuzz: helping students feel excited about reading

Published on: 11 June 2024

At BookTrust, we're proud our Bookbuzz programme has been inspiring a love of reading in students across the country. We spoke to Rachel, a seconday school librarian in West Sussex about the power of reading for pleasure in students

School librarian Rachel in the library at Shoreham Academy

For the past five years, Shoreham Academy has been purchasing Bookbuzz for each of its 650 Year 7 and Year 8 students.

The BookTrust programme for secondary schools let students choose and keep a book they'll love from a collection of 16 new titles, selected each year by BookTrust's panel of reading experts, including practising teachers and school librarians.

"Bookbuzz means we can get a free book into our students' hands, and most importantly, they've chosen it for themselves," says Rachel Johnson, the school's librarian.

"Having a choice when it comes to books is so important. It literally changed my life because it kept me reading. I don't know where I would be now otherwise."

Designed to get students reading for pleasure, Bookbuzz holds a special place in Rachel's heart. She was 19 years old when she was finally diagnosed with dyslexia. Thanks to interventions at school that sparked her love of reading, she found her vocation as a school librarian.

"Now, at the beginning of each school year, I do a talk with students about my story and about how my English teacher changed my life by running down the corridor and feeding me all these books for me to read," says Rachel. "It means I've got a good message to share with our students about how powerful reading for pleasure can be."

Engaging students with Bookbuzz – with a special sidekick

School librarian Rachel and dog Perdi in the library at Shoreham Academy

During this assembly, Rachel promotes Bookbuzz to Year 7 and 8 students. She also enlists the help of her labradoodle, Perdi - the school's official library dog - to generate excitement around the programme.

"Perdi's role is to just be here for the students," she says. "They can cuddle her, they can read out loud to her, and she will listen. To promote Bookbuzz, Perdi comes down to the school hall with me to showcase the books. She also comes with me to visit classrooms with the Bookbuzz books, to help students choose which one they want."

Rachel describes the other ways she engages students with Bookbuzz. "We promote Bookbuzz on screens all over the school," she says. "We put up the Bookbuzz poster, and we send out the amazing Bookbuzz video and presentation to all our forms.

"This year – to make things even more exciting – when the Bookbuzz books arrive and students come into the library to get them, we're thinking of having a Bookbuzz party."

The impact of Bookbuzz on secondary age students

School librarian Rachel and dog Perdi in the library at Shoreham Academy

"I get students coming up to me in the corridor to say thank you for their Bookbuzz books," says Rachel. "Then I see them around the school sitting and reading. Seeing them swap their Bookbuzz books with each other after reading them also feels really good."

She adds: "I think the biggest impact we see with Bookbuzz is on boys. You see such a big drop-off between Year 6 and 7 for boys' reading. Being able to say, 'Look at this amazing horror book, it's yours to keep', means there's some pick-up again. There's been a really good impact on school library footfall thanks to Bookbuzz - especially with boys."

Supporting a positive generational cycle of reading for pleasure

"It's not just about being able to read books well enough to write in an exam," says Rachel. "It's about personal development.

"There are books I could talk about that have changed my life in subtle ways. I would love for students to discover a book they read when they're 12 years old that they still love when they're 45. Maybe they'll have kids of their own, and they'll give that same book to them to read.

"We want that cycle to keep going. If they are children who read, who turn into young adults that read, they will read to their children. That's the cycle we want to create and continue."

Find out more about Bookbuzz

Bookbuzz

Bookbuzz is a reading programme from BookTrust that aims to help schools inspire a love of reading in 11 to 13-year-olds. Participating schools give their students the opportunity to choose their own book to take home and keep from a list of 16 titles.

Find out more