The end of this month sees the start of my kids’ summer break and just like some people plan holidays in the sun, we’ve been planning our holiday in books.
I’ve been greatly inspired by Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks) with Susan Kelley, a book about instilling genuine lifelong reading habits in children. It’s written from a teacher’s perspective, but includes much that any adult interested in supporting children’s reading would be inspired by.
Miller describes a host of strategies for engaging children with books and, in particular, for giving them the tools to find and devour books themselves – for becoming self-motivated, enthusiastic readers who don’t rely on prescriptions by adults to ensure that that books get picked up with excitement and read with curiosity and delight.
Fun, inspiring and innovative, I wanted to try some of Miller’s suggestions in our family during our six week break from school.
Miller describes how she has created a wall in her classroom where students are encouraged to share any line(s) they love from the books they are reading, lines which have stood out to them for one reason or another. Over the year, the wall has filled up with graffiti and has become a focal point, with every line “an endorsement – for the book and for the reader who selected and drew it.”
As a family we’re often telling each other words or phrases we’ve come across that have tickled our fancy, brightened our day or simply tasted delicious as we’ve read them, and thus a Reading Graffiti Wall struck me as something that would be right up our street. But we haven’t got any spare walls (all being covered either in bookshelves or artwork created by the kids), so what we’re doing is turning our patio doors into our graffiti wall, using pens which write on glass (we happen to use these).
I know the slightly illicit act of drawing on windows will add to the thrill of writing our graffiti. And yes! All of us, adults included, are going to be making use of the graffiti window…
Indeed, the allure has already worked its magic, with first bits of graffiti from us all: from Sarah Crossan’s Breathe (M’s choice), from Katherine Woodfine’s The Clockwork Sparrow (J’s choice) and Peter Duck by Arthur Ransome (my first addition).
It’s going to be such fun seeing the window fill up with a record of reading we’ve really enjoyed over the summer break I’m already looking forward to sharing a picture of our window in September.
One of the lovely things about planning holidays is the anticipation. And it’s no different when it comes to a holiday in books.
Miller dedicates a whole chapter in her book to exploring the importance of reading plans, or rather the importance of making it so that children have the tools to – and are excited by – making reading plans. Planning for future reading is a key characteristic of what Miller calls Wild Readers, i.e. lifelong, avid readers. Such planning helps us sustain and expand our reading lives; we always have a next book (or more) to read and we positively seek out the excitement and anticipation that comes from building a TBR (To Be Read) pile.
To this end, over the past few weeks I’ve been encouraging my kids to think about books they’d love to read over the holidays – with a promise from me that I will do my best to find copies one way or the other. Here are some of the ways you can help your kids make their own TBR piles:
Books for Keeps is high quality, and always includes interesting interviews and opinion pieces in addition to review round-ups. There are a few tricks for getting nice printable versions of the reviews – basically you want to make sure you’re viewing the pdf version of the magazine:
The Phoenix Comic monthly book club – this appears in print once a month in the comic, but can also be found online here (though you may need to scroll down to find it)
The Booktrust best book guide. This is written for adults, but older children (confident readers) can also use it to browse.
The Who Next Guide might be useful if you want some help with finding authors similar to those your children enjoy reading. The site (free for the first two weeks) doesn’t include reviews, and doesn’t have a visual appeal that will grab children, but I’ve found it useful as an adult to find names to look up next time we are in a library or a bookshop.
If you’re a teacher, parent or simply an adult who’s looking for some inspiration to support children’s love of reading, these are my personal recommendations:
We’re already well on our way to curating a tantalising a pile of books to read over the summer. This (a mixture of reads selected by M, J and me) is what’s just about to go under lock and key so there are no sneaky reads before school’s out!
What are you and your family looking forward to reading in the coming weeks?