Library Lifeline: Recommending books when you're short on time

05 Oct 2021
pexels-yan-krukov-8613089.jpg

This Libraries Week, we are excited to publish the first in a brand-new blog series, Library Lifeline, written in association with the School Library Association. This series is designed to support anyone working in a school library by answering their questions directly. If you have a question that you’d like to ask our ‘agony aunt’ – the SLA’s Member Development Librarian, Dawn Woods – then please email us at worldofstories@literacytrust.org.uk and your question may be the focus of a future blog!

This week’s question is one we hear a lot in our work with schools…

‘I want to be able to recommend books to my pupils but I really struggle to find the time to read – what can I do?’

With teacher and school library staff time in such short supply, this is an understandable issue for many people working in education. I have included some practical hints and tips later in this blog that should help, but first let’s look at the evidence surrounding book talk – how crucial is it that we have the book knowledge to talk to children about literature? Here are some excerpts from the current thinking and research around the importance of book talk…

“To promote children’s pleasure in reading, we need to read to children and with them and to talk to them about books. These conversations are crucial as they help children to engage and think deeply.”

“Book Chat is the informal interaction that accompanies quality reading to and with children, developing children’s language and comprehension and nurturing a love of reading.”

“Studies have shown that those who read for pleasure have higher levels of self-esteem and a greater ability to cope with difficult situations. Reading for pleasure was also associated with better sleeping patterns.”

So, talking to your class about books, asking them what they are reading at home, their likes and dislikes and acknowledging it all is vital. It allows children a space to voice their view and the confidence to know it will be respected. It recognises that every child’s opinion is valid. It also takes the pressure off those less confident and can help sort out any confusion over what is happening in the book. The Rights of the Reader poster is ideal for displaying in the classroom as you are showing you accept different readers.

But what happens when children ask you for suggestions for their next read? We can’t hope to read as much as we’d like, but by encouraging book talk you will have readers in your classroom who can suggest titles. Some may have listened to an audio book, which is perfectly acceptable – and is something you might like to do whilst commuting or walking to broaden your book knowledge.

There are a range of other tools, like blogs and review journals, available to you to keep up with new titles. I have compiled a list of recommended sites at the ends of this blog. These are really useful sources of information that give you the flavour of a title without having to read the whole thing.

Another great way to keep your knowledge up to date is to befriend the staff in your local library who see new books passing through and can offer suggestions.

If you have an independent local bookshop, see if you can strike up a relationship. They may offer you more than just book suggestions, many organise visits from authors promoting their latest book and they might have time to fit in a talk in school too.

When a child asks you what other books are in a series that they enjoyed, Children’s Books Sequels is very useful.

So, especially when pressures in schools are so acute, don’t feel you personally have to read everything - there are ways to keep abreast without adding pressure around read. Above all, make sure any reading you do is for your own enjoyment too!

Good luck!

Dawn Woods
Member Development Librarian