I was very fortunate to represent Cover2Cover Books at the London Book Fair this year, the visit funded by the DTI. While in London I went to visit BookTrust, the biggest literacy charity in the UK. They have a range of programmes, and I was particularly interested in the support they give to their secondary teachers and schools, as many of our beneficiaries have asked for more support in how to use our reading materials. Although our contexts are very different, our aims are similar, and so I was sure I could learn something.
I met Peter Jenkins, who was extremely generous and helpful, and interested in our work too. He also called in Kirsty Pattison, a colleague who works with secondary schools, to tell me more about what they do. They have various book programmes on different levels. The one I was most interested in was Beyond Booked Up, aimed at schools needing extra support. The schools receive packs of books of different genres (poetry, plays novels etc), accompanied by extensive teaching material and worksheets for teachers to use in the classroom. Their material will definitely give us ideas to adapt for our context.
Another programme is Bookbuzz, where learners are able to choose their own book to keep for reading pleasure. There is some cost to the schools involved, but it is heavily subsidised. For this programme, Peter said that ‘choice’ was an important element for the children – choosing the right book rather than having one imposed on them. Kirsty described how introducing and profiling writers, even if it was just a YouTube video, had a big impact on reading. Learners become interested in the writer as a person, and probably also with a bit of background about the book to break the ice, are then more likely to choose to read it. BookTrust also holds events for teachers to share practice with each other.
Seeing the rows and rows of gorgeous contemporary children’s and Young Adult literature on their bookshelves – books written purely to get young people reading, without an eye on the educational market – made me very envious! However it does seem that for reluctant readers their ‘top hits’ are similar to our books – pacy, exciting, and locally relevant.
I only heard about a tiny slice of two of their programmes, but they do far more. Click here to visit their site for more information on this inspiring organisation.