Bookbuzz: Getting the right books into students' hands

Published on: 04 March 2024

Michelle, a secondary school librarian in Essex, describes how BookTrust's Bookbuzz programme helps keep a love of reading alive for Year 7 students.

A photo of a girl and two boys sitting in their school library looking at books together

The importance of choice in inspiring students to read for pleasure

Michelle Waghorn is the school librarian for The Sweyne Park School, a comprehensive in Essex. For the last few years, she's purchased Bookbuzz – BookTrust's curated programme of books and resources for secondary schools - for every incoming Year 7 pupil. And it's now an integral part of her annual calendar.

"Bookbuzz is such a brilliant scheme," she says. "To be able to say on open evenings, 'Every child will receive a book of their choice when they start here' is a real selling point for our school."

Bookbuzz gives students the chance to 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.

"A lot of children don't have books at home," says Michelle. "To have a book that they have chosen out of 16 Bookbuzz titles is hugely important for encouraging reading for pleasure.

"That element of choice is so important. It means students feel a sense of ownership. Most children think they don't like reading. But you've just got to put the right book in front of them."

How one Bookbuzz book made a big impact on a reluctant reader

A photo of a boy reading by bookshelves in his school library

"One of our Year 7 pupils is on a reduced timetable due to complex needs - and I was told he hates reading," says Michelle. "However, upon receiving his Bookbuzz book, Xtinct by Ash Stone, his form tutor noticed he started reading it during silent reading time.

"We then discovered he'd been finding corners in the corridors to hide and read his new book because he was enjoying it so much. Something clearly spoke to him through that book."

Michelle adds: "This pupil has now requested to read more books from the same author and joined my book club. I hope being part of book club will help him feel more confident in expressing himself through reading. It's early days, but this has all been sparked from that one Bookbuzz book."

The need to protect reading for pleasure for secondary age pupils

Some of the 2023 Bookbuzz books in a pile on a table

As the school's librarian, Michelle is responsible for embedding a culture of reading for pleasure at The Sweyne Park School.

"That transition from primary to secondary school is where reading for pleasure tends to tail off," she says. "In secondary school, we don't perhaps have as much time, because of the necessary focus on the curriculum.

"There are so many other demands on pupils' attention, including their screen time. It means they risk losing out on the imagination, freedom, and escapism that comes from reading for pleasure. The demands on students' lives have also led to an increase in anxiety in pupils.

"That ability to just switch off and escape somewhere into the pages of a book really helps with mental health. It also supports reading for learning and for empathy, which are both extremely important."

How Michelle incorporates Bookbuzz into the school's reading culture

A photo of sticky notes featuring children's praise of Bookbuzz

"When BookTrust announces the new Bookbuzz booklist each May, I create a poster in the library showcasing all the books," says Michelle. "I include a QR code to the Bookbuzz page on BookTrust's website. And I include information about Bookbuzz in our school's induction pack.

"Then, when Year 7 pupils arrive in September, I visit them during form time and show them all the Bookbuzz books they can choose from, and I read out each book's blurb. Pupils then choose the Bookbuzz book that most appeals to them.

"With each year's selection of 16 Bookbuzz books, there are always some good sizable novels for keen readers, as well as lots of quick reads, plus options that are popular with struggling readers.

"When their chosen Bookbuzz books have arrived, students are so excited! That's my favourite bit.

"It's probably one of my favourite parts of my job, sorting through the books and knowing they are going to be in the hands of our pupils."

Find out more about 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