Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

Please wish me luck!

Posted on | October 10, 2012 | 29 Comments

Tomorrow I’m starting to volunteer at a new-to-me school, with the very simple mission: to transform it into a book-loving* school.

The school currently has no librarian and no literacy co-ordinator. On the visits I’ve so far made to the school, the library seems to be treated as a corridor or a storage area.

As you can imagine, such a mission calls for something out of the ordinary. So, taking a leaf out of Steve Cole’s book, I’ll be there dressed as a (Book) Super Hero.

My Super Hero Books

My Super Hero Headband

Me practising flying past in my Super Hero Cape

Starting “small”, to begin with I’ll be working once a week with a class of 7 year olds doing all I can to get them excited about reading, keen to spend time in the library and eager to share brilliant books with me, their families, friends and teachers.

As some of you know I already volunteer in a different school doing story+craft sessions once a week with 5 and 6 year olds. I’ll be drawing on my experience from that in this new school, but with a more clearly defined link to the curriculum.

So when I turn up tomorrow I shall explain to my class that what I want more than anything is to get them buzzing about books, to turn them into Book Super Heroes too and the first stage in their transformation will be a quest to think a bit about what makes books brilliant.

Each table will receive a folder full of Very Important Stuff.

This folders contain a task, a booklet for each child, and some post it notes. Oh, and a super hero mask.

Wearing our masks, each table will use the booklets to help them think about what makes books brilliant, and how they themselves choose books to read. After stamping their booklets with their opinions, everyone will chose one thing that they think makes a book brilliant, or one thing that helps them choose new books, and we’ll stick these up next to the class bookshelves.

Having thought about what makes books brilliant and how we choose books for ourselves, I’m going to tell them about the tasks we’ll be facing in the next two sessions. The class is going on a trip to the zoo next week, so each table will be given a blank book and a disposable camera.

Their mission whilst at the zoo is to take photos they can use to illustrate the books they are going to write. And (remembering what we just did with the Very Important Stuff) the books they are going to write are going to be BRILLIANT, books that they themselves would want to choose off the library shelf.

Finally I’m going to introduce the group to a wide range of different books about zoos. These books will be left in the classroom for the kids to browse before our third session, which will be a Battle of the Books.

On the day of the Battle of the Books, each table will choose one book and then argue to the rest of the class, why they should vote for it as the best Zoo book. But that’s getting ahead of myself…

Tomorrow is all about dressing up, having fun, and starting to get kids excited about reading. And why am I telling you all of this? Well, as I said, I’m doing this as a volunteer. My only qualifications are enthusiasm, a passion for books, and a commitment to do what I can to spread that enthusiasm and passion. Maybe you have similar qualifications? If so please feel free to use/amend all the materials I’ve created for tomorrow’s session. Here’s a zip file with the documents, both as .pdf and .svg (should you wish to edit them), that make up the Very Important Stuff. If you’ve any comments, feedback, suggestions about the documents or my mission in general, please do get in touch.

So that’s it. You now know what I’ll be doing tomorrow afternoon. Please do wish me luck; even though I’m very excited about starting this new project, I’m also rather terrified!

*By book-loving, I really mean reading-loving – a passion for books, comics, magazines, newspapers, stories… I’m sure you get the picture!

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29 Responses to “Please wish me luck!”

  1. Florence Gillespie
    October 10th, 2012 @ 9:33 pm

    This sounds like a tall order, and it looks like you are aptly prepared. I’m wondering….Do you have any suggestions for a similar task at the grade 9-12 level?

  2. Barbara
    October 10th, 2012 @ 9:41 pm

    I can’t think of a better way to get kids interested in books! The ‘ important stuff in an envelope’ idea is inspired. Good luck, not that you will need it.

  3. Zoe
    October 10th, 2012 @ 9:41 pm

    Hi Florence, I’m not sure what age is grade 9-12 (I’m in the UK) – sounds like the upper end of school? I haven’t worked with teenagers but if I find any good resources for you I’ll be in touch.

  4. Natasha Dennis
    October 10th, 2012 @ 9:42 pm

    Good luck.

    I’ve been thinking about volunteering at the local school Little Man has just started preschool at. As you know I think joining crafts and reading is a brillant way to get kids reading.

    You’ve just spurred me on to ask at the school tomorrow.

    Fingers crossed for you tomorrow.

  5. Rachel Silberstein
    October 10th, 2012 @ 9:43 pm

    Sounds wonderful Zoe, the kids are very lucky to get you! Your project made me think of Judy Sierra’s Wild about Books – probably a bit young for your group, but a lovely story for bringing together animals and books!

  6. caroline
    October 10th, 2012 @ 9:47 pm

    Poor children but lucky children. My school is so blessed with books we are so lucky! Go forth and save the world one book at a time

  7. Corinne Robson
    October 10th, 2012 @ 9:56 pm

    You don’t need any luck Zoe as you will do an amazing job. Those kids are lucky to have you!!

  8. Sara
    October 10th, 2012 @ 10:11 pm

    Sounds totally amazing. They’ll love you for sure! x

  9. Damyanti
    October 10th, 2012 @ 10:27 pm

    Good luck , sounds fantastic & we desperately need more book super heroes
    Damyanti recently posted..Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski

  10. Sam
    October 10th, 2012 @ 10:40 pm

    Wow – what wonderful resources you have put together for your sessions. I can’t see how any child would NOT enjoy themselves and get into books. This is a good age too to get them hooked. Please do let us know how you got on – I would love to take a similar idea into my daughter’s school.
    Sam recently posted..And we have a winner!

  11. Nupur
    October 10th, 2012 @ 11:12 pm

    OMG how exciting!!! I’m cheering you on as you start this world-saving (and I truly mean that) mission.

  12. Elza
    October 10th, 2012 @ 11:34 pm

    Zoe, you are an inspiration! As someone doing a job that no longer suits them (and certainly doesn’t suit life with young children) I long to be able to find my niche and follow my passion in a similar way. I think both you and the children will have terrific fun!

  13. maria cristina thomson
    October 11th, 2012 @ 2:32 am

    Dear Zoe, you´ll be Great! Wish you the very best all the way! Have a wonderful reception by the kids…I´m sure you and your lovely books will do the trick.

  14. aloi @guiltlessreading
    October 11th, 2012 @ 3:06 am

    LUCK!!! there is so much good stuff happening in this post. books – check. superhero – check. cool red boots – check. and more books – check. rabid school kids … err :P

    LUCK! :)
    aloi @guiltlessreading recently posted..The Christmas Carol Murders by Christopher Lord

  15. choxbox
    October 11th, 2012 @ 3:43 am

    Can you also please volunteer at our school in India? Please pretty please?!

  16. sandhya
    October 11th, 2012 @ 5:31 am

    Wonderful Zoe. Here’s wishing you luck, and more than that, lots of fun! Volunteering sure rocks, as I’ve found out- I volunteer at the Spastics Society School here, and I learn a lot from my children.

    Seconding Choxbox’s request for coming to India and doing this awesome stuff for our children.
    sandhya recently posted..On occasion of the International Day for the Girl Child – The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

  17. Zoe
    October 11th, 2012 @ 6:54 am

    WOW! I crashed out last night once I posted this, and now I wake up and I feel you’re all sending me Super Hero Engergy – *Thankyou* :-) I certainly intend to report back (and onwards) as the weeks progress….

  18. Polly
    October 11th, 2012 @ 7:57 am

    you totally rock. I want to come!

    Did you have difficulty approaching the school/getting it to accept your services? Be good to hear a little about that process and how you selected it (or perhaps it’s M’s new one?)

    And those boots! Oh my.
    Polly recently posted..Into the Forest

  19. Elli
    October 11th, 2012 @ 10:05 am

    Yes, boot envy!
    And what a fantastically lucky school to have you!
    Elli recently posted..Catching

  20. Library Mice
    October 11th, 2012 @ 10:15 am

    You clever cookie. I can’t wait to hear all about it on Saturday!
    And where did you get those fab notebooks?
    Library Mice recently posted..FABULOUS FIVE: Hannah Cummings presents five favourite picture books

  21. Annabel Deuchar
    October 11th, 2012 @ 11:06 am

    This is absolutely brilliant. I am so excited by your creativity! Those kids are going to LOVE your passion and your ideas are fabulous. I’m so glad I’m following your blog. My kids and I read all the time but sometimes I forget to bring in the fun factor, the silly factor around the books themselves. My daughter is constantly making herself books – I can’t wait to try your ideas. And thank you for making me think about whether I too need to put my money where my mouth is and find a similar opportunity to give children such an important skill as loving to read…
    Annabel Deuchar recently posted..An Ode to Poo

  22. Library Mice
    October 11th, 2012 @ 11:09 am
  23. BongMom
    October 11th, 2012 @ 6:08 pm


    All the best. You are super prepared and you are going to do great.

  24. BongMom
    October 11th, 2012 @ 6:08 pm


    All the best. You are super prepared and you are going to do great.

  25. Kerry Aradhya
    October 11th, 2012 @ 7:42 pm

    Hi, Zoe. What a great gift you are giving to the children at the school. I hope your first day is a huge success!!!

  26. Jane Porter
    October 11th, 2012 @ 10:43 pm

    What an excellent mission! Best of luck with it all, looking forward to reports as you go along…
    Jane Porter recently posted..Wandle wildlife

  27. Storied Cities
    October 13th, 2012 @ 10:44 am

    Sounds like wonderful fun for everyone! Good luck!
    Storied Cities recently posted..Collaborative City: A Poem As Big As New York City

  28. Mevrouw Kinderboek
    October 16th, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

    It looks like an amazing project. I would very much kike to hear how it worked out!
    Mevrouw Kinderboek recently posted..Win het prentenboek Bij ons in de straat

  29. Inspiration for Story Seekers – Zoe Toft from ‘Playing by the book’ | storyseekersuk
    April 5th, 2013 @ 6:02 am

    [...] schools and has recently set up a library there as well.  Check out these pictures from the post where she shares her thoughts about how she might go about this task – you can’t say fairer than a Brilliant Book [...]

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