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!
Bookwagon is determined to find the right books for our readers. It is why we read so much, make our own descriptions rather than purchasing publishing words annually. (Compare other booksellers’ descriptions and you’ll understand what I mean.) Whether we popup at a school or festival, make gift book selections or personal recommendations, we seek the right book. The right book will be one we have read and liked. This means that we get feedback from our customers such as:-
‘Bookwagon is the only UK independent online book seller owned by extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic professionals giving you personal recommendations for your child – diamond compared to Amazon.’
‘My son has been receiving books from Bookwagon since Christmas. He loves every time they arrive, wrapped up with a little note for him. Such a wonderful idea’
Bookwagon is a fantastic independent book seller that will actually be responsive and select appropriate books for you. Always packed beautifully and offering unusual books at competitive prices.’
A unique book selection
Matching the reader to the book
I enjoy the guidance offered by customers as to their readers’ preferences and needs. Recently, Bookwagon took a gift book subscription for a child whose preferred reading genre is horror. This prompted some thought! We will fulfil this preference while looking to integrate other reading themes into the selection. That is not difficult!
To any length for the right book
Last week I offered that fantasy was not my favourite reading genre. Yet I have come to enjoy previewing children’s books of this genre for Bookwagon. This week I read A Pinch of Magic, the latest book by Michelle Harrison and the first I have read by this author. We will support a visit by her to a nearby school during World Book Day week. Her books fit the fantasy reading genre, with a sprinkling of the supernatural. However, in this instance, I was delighted to discover themes of kindness and loyalty that superseded the threat and horror.
To Himalayas and beyond
Mr Bookwagon was bowled away by the strength, message and story contained in Jasbinder Bilal’s Asha & the Spirit Bird. This is a stirring story including themes of tyranny, uprising, family loyalty and tradition and superstition. It is multilayered; a story to which confident adventure loving readers are likely to return.
The Lost Book
Margarita Surnaite’s début picture book,The Lost Book evolved from her observations of a technology obsessed society. Yet the reading themes within this title could also include the joy of reading, sharing stories, isolation and difference. Why is the protagonist a rabbit, and the recipient of ‘The Lost Book‘ a human child? There are rich pickings for discussion and consideration.
The Lost Book
Similarly Jillian Tamaki’s They Say Blue is more than a book of colours. Through an unnamed period of time, we participate in a young girl’s investigations of the sensory world around her. Is a blue whale really blue? We know blood is red, but why do we say the sky is blue? What happens during our seasons? Do our understandings match our experiences? This book holds so many rich considerations and reading themes within a seemingly subtle sensory exploration.
A blue sky?
The people stopped. They smiled and together…
Idris has given up hope. In his small, small world only fences, dirt and shadows flower. When Wisp appears, it offers him a glimpse of memory and possibility. The wisp transfers to an old man who remembers a time before. It travels through the camp, lighting up lives. What happens when another wisp appears to Idris? Through shadow, light and lyrical prose, this ‘story of hope’ offers so many reading themes alongside so many human emotions.
Wisp A Story of Hope
The cat and the king
Nick Sharratt came to prominence as illustrator for Dame Jacqueline Wilson’s children’s books. Recently, he turned his hand to picture books for younger readers. Last year, he offered The Cat and the King a richly satisfying selection for newly independent readers. A parent observed, ‘There’s more to this story than meets the eye, isn’t there?’ Yes, dear reader, there is! The subtle reading themes continue in its superb sequel, Nice Work for the Cat and the King. Cat’s loyalty to the King is exceptional. The King cannot expand beyond his role and tradition. With only small piles of coins left for the King to live on, what is to be done? It’s Cat, as ever to the rescue.
Cat on a red carpet
Through, over, beyond..
February 7th was release date for a host of new children’s books. I fretted that we had not read them all as publicity blared across social media. However, in reading every book we sell we are at an advantage. This practice means that our reading descriptions, in our own words, carry authenticity and reliability.
When I offer that The Wall in the Middle of the Book is an outstanding book for all ages, you know I have read it and loved it honestly. Watch the pictures, expressions and movement in this stunning début title for Scallywag Press. Look at the conflict to the text! The reading themes in this story are vast, considered and so intelligent!
The Wall in the Middle of the Book
Now for something completely different
The dark, overlaid tones and paper construction employed in The Visitor suggest something spooky. Elise, our main character is scared. She is shut into her own world. She ‘never went out. Night or day.’ She is terrified when a paper dart flies through a window. When it is followed by a knock at the door, Elise is almost too frightened to answer it. Who is breaking down Elise’s wall?
It is fascinating to see the colours, shadows and tones change, alongside the shapes and sizes of the picture components. The reading themes in this masterclass of storytelling are rich, complex and stimulating.
I expected something traditional in Little Rabbit’s Big Surprise. However, when Little Rabbit tags along with Big Rabbit, he makes many discoveries about his setting. So do we. We are also left in a dilemma as to how to improve the situation of many of the characters introduced. What can be done? What is the message within the story? This is a truly satisfying book. I suggest it is one that many children will want to keep, too, a ‘forever story’.
Rather, as Little Rabbit discovers on her day with Big Rabbit, beneath the covers of every book we read are new themes, new considerations, new readers to meet. Being an independent children’s bookseller, charged with matching books to readers is demanding, a challenge and a privilege.
A little something extra