Tag Archives: Reading

Assembly Books

This year I will be reading books in assemblies once a week. Sharing stories, discussing what we can learn from them and encouraging reading for pleasure. The books will be selected because of their suitability to the Primary age group and the time of year and their ability to make the readers reflect and enjoy. Headteacher and children’s book enthusiast Simon Smith pointed me in the direction of the hashtag #assemblybooks which has been a great source of research and inspriation for the books I plan to read every week.

The Squirrels who Squabbled – by Rachel Bright and Jim Field

A great story about the importance of friendship and teamwork. When the two squirrles eventually work together they find life much more enjoyable and they are much more successful. The book also touches on themes of laziness and greediness.

There’s Room For Everyone – Anahita Teymorian

At first I was reminded of the ‘Jar of Life‘ story, where the jar appears to be full, but more and more things are added to it. But this story goes deeper into the futility of war in a very child friendly way. There is room for everyone in this world and we should all get along. I particularly enjoyed the message from the author at the back of the book where she gives the reasons that she wrote the book and how angry she got when she watched the news. For assembly it is useful to be able to develop the discussion around the text by hearing directly from the author.

Perfectly Norman – by Tom Percival

A lovely book that encourages children not to hide their light under a bushel, but to be proud of what makes them special and the things they enjoy. When you let your light shine and are proud of who you are, you will give others the confidence to do the same. Life’s is for living.

On A Magical Do-Nothing Day – by Beatrice Alemagna

A great reminder to ditch the digital devices and get outside to experience the world around you. The girl at the centre of the story is stuck in the same old cabin, in the same old forest, in the same old rain while dad is back in the city and mum writing on the computer. She is encouraged to go and do someting by her mum and she reluctently goes outside where she finds nothing much to do apart from loads of exploring of the pond and stones and soil and seeds and plants etc…

Could be good for an assembly before a school holiday, during an internet safety week or to encourade a bit of cultural capital if you like. It certainly goes well with our Sidlesham 101.

The Sea Saw – by Tom Percival

This is the story of a toy bear who is lost at the beach by a little girl called Sofia. The bear goes on an epic journey to get back to Sofia, all the while being guided and protected by the sea. Eventually the bear is discovered in a stream by a little girl who turns out to be Sofia’s granddaughter. All rather lovely, and the moral of the story is, ‘nothing is ever truly lost if you keep it in your heart.’

The Dot – by Peter H. Reynolds

Vashti thinks she cant draw. He teacher thinks she can and encourages her just to try. To start. To make a mark. From the simple beginning of a dot and with some carefully nurtured support from her teacher, Vashti develops a passion for art and becames ‘a really great artist’, who is able to encourage others to take the plunge themselves. The Dot has a great message for pupils and teachers alike, encouraging pupils to be brave learners and take risks in their work to find their own style and enjoyment. It’s the role of the teacher in the story that I really enjoy though, she cares for the child and really values their work, making a special fuss of what they have done encouraging them to greater achievements.

Bedtime Stories

The joy of books

One of the best things about being a parent (and teacher for that matter) is sharing books with children. My children and I particularly enjoy bedtime stories where we have uninterupted time together exploring fantasy lands with fantasitical characters. I’ve written before about reading recommendations for short stories at bedtime, with suggests from a great range of teachers and parents.

The purpose of this blog is for me to have a place to share some of the longer, chapter books we’ve been reading at bedtimes, and add to it over time.

July 2019 – The Paninis of Pompeii by Andy Stanton

This is the first in a new series of books by Andy Stanton who is the author of the Mr Gum books. There is a lot more to it than the Mr Gum books and it’s more of a collection of short stories set in a ancient Pompeii. It would kind of work if you’re looking at the Ancient Roman Empire in class, but you’d have to get the children to work out which bits were historically accurate and which bits were artistic license and pure comedy value.

Like Stanton’s previous work, this book is chocked full of very silly humour (the main character is literally a fart merchant) and some fantastically named excentiric characters including Barkus Wooferinicum the family dog and a personal favourite Atrium Jamiroquai Tannicus. We look forward to the next installment in the Paninis series.

June 2019 – The Story of Matthew Buzzington by Andy Stanton

This story is great if you want to address bullying issues in class. Matthew Buzzington and his little sister move to the Big City and start at a new school. Starting at a new school can be tough at the best of times, but when you think you can turn into a fly and tell people that on a few occassions it doesn’t help you make friends. The trouble is that he fails to turn into a fly so is widley mocked. However, one thing leads to another and Matthew goes on quite the journey with the bully and his little sister.

While there are certainly funny parts to the book, it’s a departure from the usual silliness of Stanton’s books. Very much worth a read though and unlike most of his other work, this book has an important message too.

May 2019 – The Monkey Pirates by Mark Skelton

If you like Mr Gum books then the humour in this one will be right up your street. Emily Jane, the main protagonist, is a girl who goes on a time travelling adventure with a bunch of monkey pirates in a wardrobe. She’s on a round-about mission to find her long-lost Uncle Bartholomew. She may well under up finding him. But she’s not really sure. My son and I both thoroughly recommend this book because it made us chuckle on many occassions.

Previous reads…

Over the years we’ve read a lot of books. Many of the picture books are listed here. We’ve read a few of David Walliams books, a few Daisy and the trouble with… by Kes Grey books and most of the Roald Dahl books.

Reading For Pleasure

There are strong links between reading for pleasure and educational outcomes . As well as the research evidence available on the matter, all teachers can read a piece of writing from children of any age and tell if they read widely or not. But how do we promote reading for pleasures in our schools? This post sets out of few of the measures we have put in place in our school, they are mostly simple and easy to replicate. Not all original ideas by any means, but our own interpretations and evolutions of ideas seen on social media, during visits to other schools and through other CPD.

  1. Read to the children. Hearing reading modelled is important for children to understand sentence structure, pronunciation, intonation, inflexion, fluency, and most of all, it makes the text enjoyable. Reading a whole class text everyday helps introduce the children to a wide range of authors and genres. We often choose high quality texts in line with our topics, but also we chooses books purely because we enjoy them. By sharing the covers on the doors of our classrooms we are further raising the profile of reading and encouraging discussions about books.

2. Recommend books. Adults and children alike are encouraged to share the books that bring them joy in some way. We recommend books by reading them, as in point 1, but we also share book recommendations through our weekly newsletter to parents and display these in our school library. Even more valuable though is when children recommend books to their peers. This happens through discussions in class but we also have stands around school that children put books on when they are empty to advertise books that they have enjoyed.

3. Radical Reading. I’ve seen similar displays in schools with the name #ExtremeReading, but we went for #RadicalReading because my Head really, really likes alliteration. We’ve just launched this in school, promoting reading, anywhere and everywhere. Although be warned, some radical reading on social media is reading of a radical nature, so it’s not all good.

4. Have well stocked book shelves. Each class has a dedicated reading area complete with a range of books. We recently had a generous donation from our PTA to update our in class collections. This was a great chance to discuss books with the class and they talked with passion about series and authors I’d not heard of. This gave us a chance to refresh our collection and made the new books sort after and valued. If you’re not fortunate enough to have any money available for new books in your school you could try the Foyle Foundation who provide grants for school libraries of between £1K and £10K.

5 Find time to read. During free reading time the teachers are encouraged to read as well. It’s always tempting to trim that sheet you need for the geography lesson or try and mark those last 5 maths books, but if the teacher demonstrates that they value reading, the children will place greater value on it. Also, allow time to discuss what you have been reading for a few minutes after this. Talk books, value books, recommend books.

We also have weekly reading time in our houses, where children from across the school meet up read to each other. It’s lovely to see them all sharing their books and a great confidence booster for everyone.

6. Find and use the good stuff. We’ve got a display at the back of our classroom where the children add awesome words, phrases and sentences as and when they come across them during their reading. Before sticking the post-it note on the wall they share what they have found with the class. I have plans to try and put them all together and see if we can write a story out of them that makes sense and is full of wonderful description. We’ll see how that goes!

7. Make books available for everyone. Outside of our Head’s office, just after you enter the school, you will come across some chairs and a basket or great books. So if you’re ever visiting our school you’ll have the chance to discover a new book and, if you’re kept waiting, you will get to enjoy a bit of reading. This basket is particularly well used when children are getting changed for PE. The ones who get changed the quickest, get to share a book with their friends for a minute or two. It’s great just to have books on hand, available, visible and valued.

8 Talk about books. We happen to have a radio station in our school and used it during World Book Day to give children the opportunity to talk to each other about their favourite books. We all plan to use it for children to read their own stories as well as stories they like. This way they can pass on their passions to others in school and further afield. I realise that most schools don’t have the luxury of a radio station, but most can make use of technology to record and publish reviews, interviews and story telling by making use of free apps.

An example of our World Book Day reviews of our favourite books

BEDTIME STORIES

A few years ago I wrote a post/rant extolling the virtues of reading with your children from an early age. To that end, I’ve been discussing bedtime stories with colleagues at work recently. Which ones were favourites and which they had less fond memories of.

The link below is a list of bedtime stories recommended by a range of educationalist from a range of experiences and backgrounds. All are also parents who have selected these books that they hold dear and have cherished memories of. The list contains details of the author, person recommending, review and link to buy. If you think there is a glaring omission from the list, get in touch and I’ll add it.

Bedtime Stories recommended by parents and educationalist.

As your kids get older, you’ll move on to chapter books. There are many great ones out there but my absolute favourites are the Mr Gum series from Andy Stanton. They are simply sublimely silly. I’ve also got some thoughts on Roald Dahl books if you care to read more.

Finally…

To finish, a rather personal rant. You may have seen a very popular book called, ‘Where The Wild Things Are’. While I love the artwork in this book, I just can’t bring myself to recommend it due to it’s remarkable lack of full stops. Perhaps it shouldn’t bother me, but it does.

Roald Dahl Books – here’s what I’m thinking

Bedtime stories have had a distinctly Roald Dahl theme this year. My son and I have been working our way through his catalogue of  children’s books and it’s been wonderful revisiting these magical stories from my own childhood. It’s great to be able to share these classics with such rich characters, plots and memories.

Fantastic Mr Fox

Brief. Exciting. But, how is Mr Fox the hero of this story? He steals from the farmers (who are spun to be evil, extreme, disgusting characters) with no sign of remorse. His actions lead to his family’s lives being put in danger and all the other animals going without food for a long period of time. He does put that bit right in the end, with a bit more of the good old stealing.

All of that said, I enjoyed the book, as did my son, and thus began a journey of discovery into the world of Roald Dahl.

The BFG

Sweet, lovely, fantasy tale of a girl who hangs out with a giant and they end up saving the world with a little help from the Queen of England. Great stuff.

The nature of bedtime stories is that they tend to happen towards the end of the day and this made reading the book a bit tricky. I was tired and the BFG himself speaks in a most peculiarly grammatically confused manner.  Reading his dialogue was hard work and I’m not entirely sure it made all that much sense to be honest.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Awesome. Exactly what I remembered it to be. An absolute classic.

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

Awful. A couple of random, unconnected stories about a space hotel and some shrinking grandparents. The difficult follow up book was a poor relation. A singular blot on Dahl’s landscape.

Matilda

My son’s favourite Roald Dahl book. We found ourselves really rooting for Matilda and Miss Honey. But it’s the less positive characters which make this book so special. Matilda’s parents and Miss Trunchbull are so ridiculous, horrendous and mean the reader is glad when they get their comeuppance. The film version went down very well also.

James and the Giant Peach

A classic tale of boy whose parents die having to live with his evil aunties, a giant peach grows in their garden, boy goes inside the peach, meets a bunch of giant insects and arachnids and they all go off on an adventure together. I really enjoyed the characters in this one, but it was longer than I remembered which is probably not a good sign!

Danny the Champion of the World

My mum will tell you that when I was growing up I loved this book, I read it and listened to it on cassette on numerous occasions. The truth is, the first time I read the book was this year, to my son. My mum is thinking of my brother, I’ve told her this and she maintains that she is correct. She is not. The good news is that my brother was correct to enjoy this book, it’s now my favourite Roald Dahl book. A touching story of a father and son breaking the law together for larks and to beat ‘the man’. I love the warmth and affection in the story in the relationship between Danny and his father. It makes me long for his childhood of simple pleasures and wish for it for my own children.

George’s Marvellous Medicine

Evil grandma gets what’s coming to her when her grandson makes his own medicine using ANYTHING he can get his hands on (including poison). I obviously can’t condone poisoning ones grandparents, but part of the skill of Dahl’s writing is that he makes it ok as she is such a ghastly character. I really enjoyed the character of Mr Killy Kranky, his house gets destroyed, his mother-in-law has been poisoned by his reckless son, she subsequently disappears – but all the while he is focused on the potential business opportunities. Great stuff.

The Twits

Funny. Gruesome. Silly. The Twits are a disgusting couple who don’t like each other very much, but hate everyone and everything else in the world even more. As with Matilda, these characters are so horrible, you don’t mind that they come to a rather unfortunate (if well deserved) end. The animal cruelty aspect, and subsequent revenge of said animals, makes the reader feel particularly strongly against the Twits and glad of their demise.

The Magic Finger

Another new one on me. As this is a short story, you don’t get the same character development and description as you do in his other books. The main character (and possessor of the magic finger) doesn’t even get a name, she is simply known as the girl. It’s a fun book  with the morality of hunting for pleasure at the heart of it. This makes it a rich teaching resource for class discussion, and the ending lends itself well to writing a story similar to that which has just been read.

The Great Mouse Plot

A short, autobiographical story, about Dahl’s school days. As such, it’s rather different to his other stories, and not one my son or I will remember fondly for years to come. Interesting to look at if you’re teaching about life in Britain in the 20th century. A good comparison between now and the days of the cane.

The Witches

My 5 year old son always chooses which book we read next and he had been putting this one off. The idea of it seemed to worry him a bit. He had no need to worry. Some of the themes have the potential to scare younger children, but, most of it didn’t bother him at all, or the boy in the story for that matter. When the boy is turned into a mouse by a room full of witches, he seems pretty cool with it all. A great lesson in making the most of a bad lot, and a fun adventure story.

The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me

A rather lovely tale of a window cleaning company who don’t require ladders because they comprise of a giraffe, a pelican and a monkey who are assisted by a boy called Billy. I found this story to be really enjoyable. It’s not too long and have a fun plot, so would be great for years 2 to 4, as a model for story writing.

We’ve still got a few more to read in our collection (Esio Trot, The Enormous Crocodile and Boy), and probably a few more we need to buy. I will add my thoughts on these as and when we read them. My son and I have thoroughly enjoyed our adventures with Roald Dahl and recommend to begin that journey yourself – no matter how old you are.