Reading Leader Reviewers for Random House

I am really pleased to have received an offer from Random House Children's Books, they have sent me a nice package of books to review on this blog. Rather than review them myself I have passed them on to the Reading Leaders we trained at King Ecgbert School, these guys are the target audience and so are better able to review them than me.

The books they will be taking a look at are:
Once I get the reviews back form the Reading Leaders at King Ecgbert School, I will post them up here.

Exciting stuff, I'm looking forward to hearing about these brand new books.


Fox Friend by Michael Morpurgo - Barrington Stoke Book 4

Michael Morpurgo is Reading Matters patron, so I felt it only fair that I review one of his several Barrington Stoke books next.

Fox Friend is a delightfully written, short book. Morpurgo is a master of his craft, and each sentence is a perfectly judged. As a result the emotions and atmosphere of the story based on a Devon farm are deeply felt, but the text is so easy to read.

There is a nice overview of the Morpurgo supported Farms for City Children charity, which adds another degree of realism to the book overall.

One of the main threats to the Fox Friend is a hunt, which dates the book a little, but the lovely story and dramatic ending more than make up for any such downsides.

Reading Differences

I picked up an interesting leaflet last week, all about the The Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA) project Reading Differences. The leaflet states:

"Reading different books – stories, poems, picture books and traditional tales set in different cultural contexts – opens windows on to other worlds, showing how other children grow up, get along with family and friends and cope with everyday life and extraordinary events"

The focus is on introducing children and young people to a broader range of literature from around the world, I think a lot of the ideas are relevant to any type of reading, and are all really just methods for talking about what is being read. The leaflet sets out four ideas to think about:
  • Researching the background of the book, looking up maps is a good place to start, but anything that puts the book in a wider context would be good.
  • Interpreting pictures, maps and pictures develop the atmosphere of the book and can be good places to explore the geographical and historical settings.
  • Reading aloud, alerting reading partners to different voices, will bring the stories to life.
  • Draw on knowledge of similar stories, some of the exotic stories may not be quite so different to those in modern soap operas.

Finally, there are some recommended books that look great:

Lots more books are listed on Reading Differences annotated book list.


The Number 7 Shirt by Alan Gibbons - Barrington Stoke Book 3

The author Alan Gibbons, who writes for Barrington Stoke supported us at our Reading Leaders event in December, he was great speaker and signed a whole stack of books for us. I thought it was only fair I covered one of his books in my ongoing weekly project.

I am not the biggest football fan, but I know roughly who's who. I also know a lot of the children we read with are much bigger followers than me.The Number 7 Shirt is going to be for them, assuming they can, at the very least, tolerate a book about Manchester United!

Encouraged by personal pep talks from five classic wearers of the Manchester United number seven shirt, Jimmy Beech gets himself together and goes all the way with the Manchester United Academy. It's an inspiring story. The messages the legends provide are all based on real situations, and chapters all end with a page of facts about each star. So although Jimmy's journey is pure fantasy, it all feels very grounded and very motivational.

My only worry is that any book like this goes out of date, it is not a big deal but all the kids will spot that, Ronaldo, has now moved on, and is no longer "United's current number seven". Don't let that put you off, it is going to be spot on for many new readers.

Finally, here's Alan's signature, to prove I'm not making it up:


Reading Leader's Celebration | Sheffield, December 16 2009

As promised in my previous post about the great results of our Character Profile activity, here are some photos from our celebration event which took place on 16 December at Sheffield Town Hall.

As well as the fabulous author Alan Gibbons, Councillor Andrew Sangar, people from Barrington Stoke, Reading Matters employees and Sheffield Council personnel, the most important people in attendance where the staff and Reading Leaders from Sheffield schools:

It sounds like Alan Gibbons has had a busy month, that is set to continue. He is writing a new Barrington Stoke book, The Dying Photo, based on a blurb written by James Pybis of Our Lady's and St Philomena's Primary School in Liverpool, as part of The Book Factor project. I first read about this on the Write Away website, so thanks to them.


Picking on Percy by Catherine MacPhail - Barrington Stoke Book 2

Second week of the year, second of my mini reviews of Barrington Stoke books. We use some audio of a Reading Mentor and her partner reading Picking on Percy by Catherine MacPhail in some of our training sessions. So I have heard the first few pages many times, but I am always concentrating on how the reading partnership is going, and not really focusing on the book itself.

Picking on Percy turns out to be incredibly similar to Desirable, which I read last week, both are excellently plotted and written, with similar a subject matter dealing with life as an 'uncool' kid in school, and both have excellent illustrations.

The illustrations, by Karen Donnelly and Dylan Gibson respectively, add enormously to both books, extending and supplementing the stories perfectly. So here's a tip, if you ever attend one of Reading Matters training sessions and hear the Picking on Percy audio. The pictures don't get a mention at all, this is definitely something the reading mentor could use to help their pupil partners understand and get the most out of the book.


Where's Wally Activities

Last week we had a super Reading Matters training session for volunteer reading mentor co-ordinators in Sheffield Primary Schools. One of the subjects we touched on was books with no or limited words. I have blogged about books without words before, I think such books are great because they are not tied in to reading ages, get children familiarised with books, plus they encourage discussion and so are perfect for reading partnerships. One suggestion last week was the Where's Wally books, perfect for collaborative reading.

Now by chance I just spotted on the Reading Agency website a batch of Where's Wally activity sheets from publishers Walker.
What timing!


Desirable by Frank Cottrell Boyce - Barrington Stoke Book 1

Yesterday, I rather rashly suggested I would try and read one Barrington Stoke Book a week. I am still a bit nervous about such a commitment but I have made a good start.

I was given Desirable by Frank Cottrell Boyce by Barrie from Barrington Stoke, I had seen it in most schools I have visited recently because it is included in this years Booked Up selection.

As you would expect from such an author it is a great read, with a really magical feel. I have to say I had a lot of sympathy for the hero George, like him I had a bit of a thing for Warhammer games when I was younger. I am not sure this did me any favours in terms of 'desirability', and unlike George I didn't find any magic potions to help me out. I think a lot of other boys would see themselves in George too.


New years resolutions

I had to think long and hard before writing this post, but I hope by writing a blog post I'll help keep two new years resolutions:

1. Read one Barrington Stoke book a week in 2010
I was really inspired by Barrington Stoke supporting our event before Christmas. Seeing their fantastic range of books made me realise that, although I recommend them all the time and we have good range we use in our reading partnerships, I have not sat down and read that many myself. So I am looking forward to reading 52 of them this year! To get me started I picked up Desirable by Frank Cottrell Boyce (thanks Barrie), I'll post a mini review next.

2. Leave more comments on other people's blogs

I love getting comments on this blog, and I was once very good at commenting on other peoples. I seem to have got out of the habit. So I plan to do a lot more this year. To inspire me I have signed up to the Comment Challenge 2010 organised by Mother Reader; so starting today I'll be commenting on five blogs a day for three weeks (well that is the idea)!


Character Profiles - One-to-one Reading Partnerships in Sheffield Schools

At the end of last term (16 December 2009) we held a celebration event for all the Reading Leaders we have trained in Sheffield schools this year. It was a fantastic event with author Alan Gibbons giving an inspired presentation, more like a comedy routine than a writer talking about his work. I'll give some more details when I get the photos through. In the meantime I wanted to share another activity we undertook with all the reading mentors we supported last year, over 200 of them!

All of the Sheffield mentors and their partners had the opportunity to complete a character profile about someone they read about together, and we have compiled the results into a book that you can read and download online: