This is a reading school
‘This is a reading school’ are words that cheer our hearts. While we realise such a declaration is mandatory, it suggests determination. Yet what is a reading school?
I am reluctant to comment or advise about the reading schemes and methods employed by schools publicly after three years away from teaching full-time. I share my experience and training when asked. However I know what makes a reading school.
Curated and waiting popup book stand
Preparing to meet the reading school
Bookwagon creates our popup book fairs meticulously. We are still making a final selection, considering the best matches for the school we are visiting, right up until the evening ahead of the visit. I peruse all the information I have amassed. No two popup book fairs are identical.
Recently we had a run of five across a week in four different counties. We curated our lists specifically for each setting. We have a good idea of the likely outcome of a visit from the interactions with the school before we arrive. Having a contact who is proactive, enquiring and excited about our visit guarantees a Bookwagon popup book fair will be a hit! We will be visiting a reading school.
Setting up a school popup book fair
Schemes and expectations
We do not create a popup book fair to support a school’s reading program because reading for pleasure doesn’t work that way for any one. A packaged measuring scheme or reading journey record, neither creates nor maintains a reading habit. Bookwagon supports the good work families and schools do to build readers for life. Reading schools build readers for life.
How do families build readers for life?
Parents build readers for life through demonstrating their own need to read. They have a reading habit, and show that reading satisfies and informs their lives. They model reading every day. There is a family bedtime reading routine that everyone enjoys. Library visits are commonplace. Books are gifted, discussed, compared, enjoyed, and treasured.
Bedtime shared reading
How do schools build readers for life?
Schools build readers for life with teachers who demonstrate their need to read. Staff model reading every day. Book shelves are kept in good order, with titles updated, displayed, discussed, reviewed while old titles are replaced or discarded. The school values its library. Staff seek to know what children like reading. They seek to extend experience and understanding. Reading is celebrated. Books are discussed, compared, enjoyed and treasured. Personal, recreational, unevaluated reading time is part of the daily timetable.
Emily Hughes, school visit
The library in the reading school
Reading schools ask our advice about their library stock. Bookwagon reads every book it sells, which means we can offer confident recommendations about titles, genres, collections. Furthermore, our experience means we know what works, i.e., which books and writers can go with others, to encourage a reading for life habit.
Teachers visiting a recent popup
Recently, we have been asked for guidance by four schools seeking to establish and extend their school library. While one school sought a particular genre, another sought titles for a particular key stage. The other two requested suggestions as to long term development. Two of the schools have enrolled with our School Orders subscription service, developed to support schools’ specific reading needs.
Bookwagon is about to hit the road anew with popup book fairs across London and the Home Counties until the end of the year. We pick up the pace in the spring anew. We hope to meet reading schools such as the last setting we had the pleasure to experience.
This primary school included ‘Drop Everything and Read‘ in its daily timetable for everyone on site. Books were thoughtfully displayed at child friendly heights and accessible front covers. Thereafter, titles, authors and genres were labelled clearly. We did not see battered, abandoned books. It seemed like the school library was the active heart of the school.
Sharing books at a recent school popup
Staff visited our popup and asked us about our book selections. Furthermore, they made suggestions and shared their experiences. They encouraged visitors, directing them toward choices they thought they would enjoy. Staff demonstrated their interest through browsing, asking our opinions, and being seen to buy our books. The Headteacher and senior staff engaged with us throughout our visit. This reading school showed that reading for pleasure, with the opportunity to extend reading range and experience, is essential.
Reading teacher, ‘I Am a Tiger‘
The students at this school enquired about our books. We read everything we sell, which meant that we could talk about our books and make informed decisions. Even KS1 children listened, asked questions and made choices based around what they heard and saw. Many children shared their opinions and experiences, and their reading selections proved wide and varied. We sold out of picture books. At no point did any visitor to our popup book fair suggest that they were ‘too old for picture books’. This reading school respects the value of every genre.
Picture books, Chris Naylor-Ballesteros
The school did not raise its reading program with Mr Bookwagon and me for this was irrelevant. However we know that this school is a reading school from our experience of the school’s practice in building readers for life. Bookwagon feels privileged to have been part of that initiative.
The reader for life
We hope your school is a reading school!
My blog posts are erratic despite best intentions to write fortnightly. Like many, I am time, sleep and leisure poor. It seems life is about working through the rush. It could be television binge watching, a seven-minute workout, or 30-minute no fuss dinners. Recently, Bake Off winner, Nadiya Hussain created ‘Time to Eat‘. She offered ‘recipes designed to help us all save time and calm our hectic lives’.
What is the rush? Who is counting down? Furthermore, are we permitted time to read?
Bookwagon is on an autumn tour, from Somerset to Surrey, North London to the Midlands. The journeys allow us time to read and a lot of time to catch up and make discoveries. We are captives in the car. We talk about the books we’ve read and enjoyed. I’ve realised anew how much Mr Bookwagon loves the series initiated by Rory Branagan, Detective He feels Lucy Strange is amongst his favourite middle grade writers- The Secret of Nightingale Wood and Our Castle By The Sea.
Reading on the move
I’m reminded of how important it is to have time to talk about the books we’ve read. There are book groups, obviously, and schemes built around books, but what about the reading? Isn’t that most valuable?
The Somerset Tsunami by Emma Carroll
It was an honour to popup within the esteemed gathering of the annual Somerset Literacy Network meeting. Speakers included Charlotte Hacking and Farrah Serroukh (CLPE- Centre for Literacy in Primary Education). Both emphasised the need for educators to take time to read and consider what they are reading with their classes. The pair spoke about the role of pictures in reading, emphasising the value of taking time to develop visual literacy. They encouraged the company to absorb the view and pitch perfect text in picture books like those from guest Joseph Coelho.
Somerset Literacy Network Bookwagon popup
Guest Nicola Davies spoke of time anew. She asked us to consider the three hundred years it takes for an oak tree to grow to full maturity.
Later, guest Laura Carlin shared her sketchbook. She asked us to contemplate the time it has taken her to grow into the illustrator and designer she is now. We were reminded of how important it is to be allowed to be wrong, erase, review and view.
From acorn to oak…
Laura Carlin’s sketchbook
Bookwagon supports and arranges visits by writers and illustrators. We know the value of these to schools. School funding issues and the rigidity of school timetables can make these difficult. Indirect, deep learning potential of school visits may not be realised because of dense school schedules. Do these schools allow time to chat and discover, and time to read?
The ticking clock
We are all working to deadlines. Nadiya Hussain repeated, ‘In our time short world….‘ We watch Noel and Sandi shouting about how much time the GBBO contestants have to perfect their jaw-dropping crafts. Thereafter, we block our ears to Gregg Wallace’s or Joe Lycett’s warnings, or Michelle Ogundehin’s footsteps approaching as would-be designers fluff their cushions ahead of deadline. It is little wonder that so many viewers enjoy ‘The Repair Shop’. Craftsmanship is valued over a time limit, here.
Migrations, 2019 nominee for BAMB Beautiful Book Award
A consideration of targets
Who sets these targets? What do they determine? What are we seeking? Does everyone step to the same beat?
Could it be, as Nicola Davies and I considered, that animals, such as dolphins and whales, are superior to us in that they follow a natural rhythm? Artificial goals, affirmation through targets, the need for ‘things’ do not determine worth or happiness.
Dolphin, Cedar Key, Florida
Deadlines for writers
In Spring 2020, we are promised ‘The Mirror and the Light’, the third, long awaited,final book of Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell trilogy. The writer said, ‘“When I began work on my Thomas Cromwell books back in 2005, I had high hopes, but it took time to feel out the full scope of the material. I didn’t know at first I would write a trilogy, but gradually I realised the richness and fascination of this extraordinary life. I hope they will stay with me as we walk the last miles of Cromwell’s life, ascending to unprecedented riches and honour and abruptly descending to the scaffold at Tower Hill. This book has been the greatest challenge of my writing life, and the most rewarding; I hope and trust my readers will find it has been worth the wait.”
Worth the wait…. We’ve been aware this year, of writers at the end of their tether, desperate to meet deadlines. These are writers whose income and self-belief depends on meeting deadlines. Bills, edits and thereafter, sales concern them. We can at least offer them the courtesy of taking time to read their works.
The Adventures of Harry Stevenson
Recent Desert Island Discs’ guest Lin-Manuel Miranda of ‘Hamilton‘ says he gets his best ideas from ‘listening to people’s stories‘, and ‘playing around in my imagination.’
When Nicola Davies discussed her poignant picture book,Perfect she reminded us about swifts. She explained their design enables them to fly continually for two years, so that their lives are on the wing. They ‘live meaningful lives’.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first chosen disc, ‘Cabaret’, reminds us that ‘it isn’t that long a stay.’ So, let’s take time to read. Reading offers possibilities, avenues, explanations, questions, affirmation that ‘We’re all right.’ Aren’t we all better for taking this time?
Bookwagon hopes you have made a happy return to the new academic year. This annual marker affects everyone in the community, from hairdresser to long-distance lorry driver. However, the biggest, most lasting effect of the start of a school year is upon the school goer. These first days are daunting especially for the very young. There is such pressure in being small within a big new world.
Assuming new people, routines and settings in new places is stressful. Furthermore it is demanding for families. There is a comfort in returning to the familiar at the end of a working day, with food, chat, bed, bath and books. Bookwagon seeks to be part of your daily routine with books we’ve read and love and recommend to you. Happy new school year.
At the end of a school day
In the meantime…
Bookwagon has refined its appearance and products, while the world enjoyed its summer holiday. We are proud of our new look and opportunities. There is a variety of subscription packages, including Book Bundle and a Birthday list service.
The first enables a customer to buy a bunch of books for a reader, maybe a series, or a selection created from the information you provide. It’s an especially great choice for the reading devotee, as a gift, or for a specific period of time.
The second, the Birthday list service, was inspired by a regular customer requesting gift books for her daughters’ friends’ parties. What if you could preorder a number of gift books, advising us of recipients’ essential details ahead of their celebration? Bookwagon chooses the book, gift wraps and writes your birthday message before posting the selection. What is better than the gift of a book?
A message from Bookwagon
Bookwagon offers a bespoke service. Being small means we can assist our customers personally, using our knowledge of our children’s books to suit specific individual needs.
It means we can get to know our writers too. Recently we met with acclaimed non-fiction narrative writer, Joanna Grochowicz. After failing to find biographies about the polar explorers to fulfil her sons’ interest, this writer created her own. Extensive research and commitment culminated in Into the White: Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey and Amundsen’s Way: The Race to the South Pole. Ernest Shackleton’s polar adventure will feature in a third title.
Joanna Grochowicz, London, September 2019
Into the White and Amundsen’s Way
We are proud to be Joanna’s on site bookseller during her schools’ tour in November, and then again in December. Moreover, her first visits coincide with National Non-Fiction November. Imagine stepping inside an historic figure’s (snow) shoes, ‘feeling’ their determination, fears, hopes and experience. Joanna’s books are stirring, informative and important.
I have learned to drown out the clamour of bigger booksellers despite feeling intimidated by their reach. Reading every book we sell means we are less inclined to rush to a new release likely to be splashed across the chain stores. Being small means Bookwagon may champion titles and writers lesser known but meriting a wide readership. We recommend books through our experience of them, with authority.
During the summer I enjoyed reading Gabrielle Kent’s Penfurzy set adventure series- Knights and Bikes and Knights and Bikes Rebel Bicycle Club. The first was an introductory selection for small startup Brixton publisher ‘Knights Of…‘
Knights and Bikes’ series
I could hear the Cornish accented Demelza, and smell the oil of the bike chains. What a great adventure series, with crafty Arthurian links!
Small, bubbly, smelly and communicative
On Thursday, the third title in Jennifer Killick’s ‘Alex Sparrow’ series is released. I read these titles backwards, i.e., I read and loved Mo, Lottie and the Junkers ahead of Jennifer’s Alex series. As our gift book subscribers can attest, I love that first title SO much and recommend it hugely. The beauty of being an independent children’s bookseller is that I am able to read our books in the order I choose; I’m not being driven by the market or a publicist.
‘Mo, Lottie and the Junkers’ inspired me to read both ‘Alex Sparrow’ titles on the trot. What a treat! If your reader enjoys books with dialogue, humour, rather annoying main characters, flaws, the unexpected, quirky humour, coincidence and pratfalls, please don’t overlook Jennifer Killick’s titles. Roll on in ‘Alex Sparrow and the Zombie Apocalypse’!
Titles by Jennifer Killick
Small publishing houses
Many of of Bookwagon’s favourite titles have emerged from smaller, bespoke publishing houses. These appear to have a vested interest in discovering and nurturing quality writers and picture book makers.
However smaller publishing houses have cautious print runs, through necessity. Furthermore, they do not have the big marketing budgets of large international publishing houses, nor the network for global sales. This means writers and picture book makers are at the mercy of booksellers and a reading public. What a responsibility!
A Bookwagon gift book
It can be frustrating to be a reading bookseller, championing wonderful writers. So often publicity is attached to known writers or picture book makers, reprised titles, or the quick thrill of a debut. It’s why we read every book we sell, so that we can urge readers toward books and writers and picture books we know you’ll enjoy.
What it means
Being small and independent offers this bookseller opportunities to read and sell international titles like Felicita Sala’s Lunch at 10 Pomegranate Street, created in France, or Australian Aaron Blabey’s riotous The Bad Guys. We cheer the arrival of Uncle Shawn and Bill and the Not One Tiny Bit Lovey-Dovey Moon Adventure the third title in A.L.Kennedy (yes, that one) and Gemma Correll’s bizarre, hilarious series, celebrating kindness and individuality.
Bookwagon new titles
Being small can be powerful, as Clementine shows, in picture book maker Chris Wormell’s astounding graphic story, The Magic Place
Small is powerful in real life. Mr Bookwagon and I were both brought to tears reading the true stories selected for Children Who Changed the World. As I write another small, strong girl protests outside the White House; Greta’s Story
A new Bookwagon chapter book selection
On the road
Being small means that when Bookwagon is called to popup in schools throughout London and the Home Counties, we curate each event specifically. We work to create book fair selections that captivate, win and challenge readers. It’s a demanding order, but one we love!
There is value in being small, starting small, but reading large and widely. We look forward to sharing a depth and breadth of wonderful reading opportunities throughout the new season and beyond. We can’t wait!
The summer holidays stretch ahead like an ocean with a feeling of emptiness and wonder. Lauren Child, current children’s laureate, would offer it’s an ideal time for children to ‘daydream and stare out the window.’
Summer is a time for making discoveries
What a great time to read!
What to read? How to read? Bookwagon is bombarded by these questions on a daily basis. Currently, we’re having parents turn to us, asking for direction following school reports and concerns about their children’s reading direction and expectation. They’re brandishing recommendations from schools, booklists bearing cobbled together titles like First Term at Malory Towers and The Skylarks’ War in the same reading bracket! It’s despair at dawn! Reading is not a competition. There is no finishing line!
Make time to read every day. More importantly, make sure you take the time so your children realise reading is important to you, too. While attention to social media is a popular bow to break us, other considerations cut into our time.
Sharing a book on a day out
We are more scheduled than we have ever been.
We are connected to our cars more than ever. My mother, a very wise and environmentally aware woman well ahead of her time, suggested every family should have no car days every week. We are linked to the shuttle- from car, to school, football practice, ballet, play dates, … We need time! Reading is not a competition, something to be snuck in as an ‘oh heckfire, we’re meant to read!’ What sort of message does this give? Do you take time to read? Do your children know how much you value this time? Value time off the wheel?
Time for guinea pig grooming
2. Support your children’s selections
Support your children’s reading selections, whatever they might be. Your children might be influenced by friends’ recommendations. Books chosen may be well ahead of their chronological or reading age, or seemingly well below. However, in showing your children that you trust their decision making, it allows them to own any mistake and move on.
Reading (the same book) together
3. Buzzy noises
Do not hear the buzzy noises of ‘what they SHOULD be reading’- please!! Most of the buzzy noises are nonsense from media campaigns pushing a blockbuster. Many popular books are pulp fiction, destined to be discarded to increase landfill. Support your children’s selections so that they find ‘forever’ books.
Dismiss the playground buzz of ignorance suggesting your child is reading below ‘their level’. What does that even mean? We don’t read for levels! We read for satisfaction, information, meaning and joy. See the light! Reading is not a competition. It is a lifelong link to wonder!
A selection of international titles
4. Don’t deny your children their preferences- comic books
Mr Bookwagon grew up loving Marvel comics- Thor, Captain America and Spiderman.Mr Bookwagon’s comic devotion did not delay or affect his reading adversely. Quite the contrary. He has a wider reading range than anyone I know. In a day he reads entomology research, sporting facts, cryptic puzzles, economic titles, thrillers and children’s books. His range makes my head spin! However, reading is not a competition.
After to a recent school talk to parents, I was approached by a staff member. She thanked me for reminding parents that comics are a valuable reading matter. Her son had been dismissed throughout his primary school years for his comic book devotion. He is currently in his final year of medical school, a keen and curious, devoted reader. Reading is not a competition.
Bookwagon shares great books with schools
4 (B). Don’t deny your children their preferences- picture books
Do not deny your children picture books, please. There is no cut off time when they become too old for picture books. There is more to be found in the nuances of picture books than in most other forms of literature. They are a rich resource for building inference, knowledge and deep understanding. Seek out picture books. Reading is not a competition.
Activity and non-fiction picture books
A trio of great new picture books
3. Seek people who know
In your routine, include your public library, know your children’s school library change day, and link with independent booksellers. Librarians and independent booksellers are charged by a love of literature. They can make inspired and informed recommendations. Make friends with them.
Librarians and independent booksellers have their fingers on the pulse of what is really out there. They pass by the pulp fiction plastering chainstore windows, discounted to dust supermarkets, recommendations by billions-following vloggers, or past-it bookclubs. Leading librarian, Dawn Finch says, ‘You don’t feed your child junk food, so why feed them junk books!’ We are in a golden age of children’s books. Ask, seek, search, read!
A snapshot of Bookwagon’s new chapter books
Bookwagon’s gift book subscription is built for your reader uniquely. I have a notebook into which I match titles to our readers throughout the month. It takes a day to email my suggestions to our subscribers. We do not choose the same book for any reader. It takes Mr Bookwagon and me a day to write the personal notes and wrap the books to each reader.
Gift book preparations
Bookwagon will be extending its book subscription packages to include book bundles and schools and teachers’ subscriptions. Book bundles offer families opportunities to purchase a specified number of books for a holiday, special event, season, or follow up a theme, favourite writer or topic, e.g. nature, Lisa Thompson, or moon landings.
Gift books preparing for postage
Please avoid a Marie Kondo approach to books in your home. Your home is not a hotel. It’s a place of safety, nurture and memory. Keeping books supports a feeling of home. Opportunity to reread offers any of us time to reflect and feel reinforced. Every rereading experience brings something new. Seek ‘forever’ books that are meaningful time and time again.
Talk about your favourite books. Don’t expect your child’s to be the same. Read at the same time. Work toward a regular bedtime reading habit. Furthermore, choose from the wealth of brilliant children’s writers who are skilful, wonder winning and glorious.
Candy Gourlay titles
Series, themes and a good laugh
Seek themes, moreover in a variety of genres. Currently we are beset by space books. Obviously, don’t look to the most obvious, but seek those that have been curated, considered and are ‘forever books’ of quality.
Seek series. We all love the feeling of reading through a character, a writer, a theme, a setting. Furthermore, reading a series builds stamina, confidence, inference and pleasure. Reading is not a competition- ever.
A Bookwagon selection of series
If your child is a more reluctant reader, look for funny books, but don’t head to the most obvious, ‘world’s worst’, selection. Books that make us laugh promote the joy of reading, stay with us, and make us want even more.
A ticklish trio of funny books
Show the joy
Reading is a pleasure. Laura Venning, Impact and Evaluation Research Manager of The Reading Agency reports on results from a recent survey:- Why reading for pleasure is important. Reading decreases the symptom of depression and dementia, improves wellbeing and relationships and increases empathy. Don’t you want that for your children? Reading is not a competition.
Feeling the joy