Welcome to a reading school

Welcome to a reading school

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.

Bookwagon popup book fair (c.) Bookwagon 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.

Bookwagon popup book fair preparation (c.) Bookwagon

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.

Bedtime reading (C) Bookwagon reading school

              Bedtime reading 

 

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.

Bookwagon family reading blog (c) Bookwagon

              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.

Talking about books with Emily Hughes

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.

Bookwagon popup book fair with teachers (C.) Bookwagon blog reading schools

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.

Our experience

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 in a reading school (c.) Bookwagon

Sharing books at a recent school popup 

The staff

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.

Bookwagon (c.) reading teacher reading school

Reading teacher, ‘I Am a Tiger

The students

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 for all ages, Chris Naylor- Ballesteros (c.) Bookwagon

         Picture books, Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

Our conclusion

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.

A reader for life (c.) Bookwagon

The reader for life

We hope your school is a reading school!

Happy reading!

The value of being small

The value of being small

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.

Bookwagon (C) End of school day

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?

Birthday gift list (C) Bookwagon

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.

Joanna Grochowicz

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.

Bookwagon (C) Joanna Grochowicz

Joanna Grochowicz, London, September 2019

 

Bookwagon (C) Into the White and Amundsen's Way

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.

More small

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…

Bookwagon (C) Knights and Bikes series

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’!

 

Bookwagon (C) Jennifer Killick titles

   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!

New books (C) Bookwagon

       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.

10 Pomegranate Street and Children Who Changed the World (C) Bookwagon

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

New chapter book titles from Bookwagon

    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!

Therefore

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!

Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

 

Reading is not a competition

Reading is not a competition

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.’

Shanklin discovering the waves (C) Bookwagon

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!

1. Time

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.

Osborne House sharing a book (c) Bookwagon

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?

Guinea pig grooming time (c) Bookwagon

 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.

Bedtime reading (C) Bookwagon

 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 (c) Bookwagon

 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.

Sharing books in school (c) Bookwagon

 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.

Fact and activity picture books (C) Bookwagon

     Activity and non-fiction picture books

 

A selection of new picture books (c) Bookwagon

       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 sample of great new chapter books (c) Bookwagon

A snapshot of Bookwagon’s new chapter books

Subscribe

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.

Bookwagon gift book preparation (C) Bookwagon

   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.

Bookwagon gift book mailing (C) Bookwagon

Gift books preparing for postage

Encourage rereading

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.

Titles by Candy Gourlay

 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 selection of series' titles (C) Bookwagon

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.

Funny books (C) Bookwagon

 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.

Happy reading! 

Shanklin seashore (C) Bookwagon

    Feeling the joy