I’m an English teacher in a secondary school looking to run some work with our feeder primary schools during the summer term. We want to use some books to encourage the Yr6’s to read in this last term and over the summer holidays. Can you help?
The first thing I would suggest you do is seek out the librarian in the school as I’m sure they will not only have some more suggestions of books for you but they will also be a wealth of information on the types of activities that would really engage these students into reading.
The Summer term, I feel, is one of the best times of the year to work with your local primary schools as it’s the lead up to students making that step to secondary school and it’s always a really good introduction to new teachers. It allows you to use the gain time from loosing Yr11’s in your school but can also work as a really good tool, especially with reading, to encourage the students to be doing things over the holidays to prepare them. Plus what better way to spend the summer months than reading?
In the past we’ve used a whole range of titles that you would classify as ‘crossover’ fiction. Books that help to bridge that transition gap between primary and secondary, which is only really a couple of months difference but actually so much more than that!
At the moment there are so many great authors writing for this age range. Authors such as Michael Morpurgo, who will most likely already be a firm favourite in the primary schools, would fit the bill perfectly. One of my favourite Morpurgo books has to be The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips which mixes Morpurgo’s two interests; war and animals, so very well. As with all Morpurgo books the story is gentle but intriguing, giving information over in such a lyrical way that you can’t help but be transported into the story with the characters.
Another author primary schools will be familiar with is Malorie Blackman. Not all her books would fit into this category but she has so many titles that would fit perfectly. Probably the best known one would Pig Heart Boy a great read with so many things to discuss, but I would also suggest Hacker, Dangerous Reality and Thief!
As well as choosing authors that you primary schools may already be familiar with there are a number of authors and books that they not know that are also fantastic. American author Rodman Philbrick and his book Freak the Mighty would certainly fit this bill. The book itself is a little more challenging its subject matter but told from the perspective of two ‘mis-fits’ it really is a touching look at the power of friendship written in an engaging fashion.
Another author similar to Rodman would be one of my favourite comedy writers for young people, Alex Shearer. Pretty much any Alex Shearer book will have you rolling around laughing but Bootleg along with The Invisible Man’s Sock has to be, for me, his two best books. Bootleg, in typical Shearer style, looks at what would happen if chocolate became a banned substance and how young people would cope. In Shearer’s world the entrepreneurial young people produce their own ‘bootlegged’ chocolate and set up ‘easy-speaks’ where they sell and enjoy the banned substance. Not only an enjoyable book but with depth that will surprise and stay with you after you’ve finished it, (oh and you’ll want to go and eat some chocolate too!)
On the subject of funny books another of my favourite authors for this age group has to be Pete Johnson and in particular Help! I’m a Classroom Gambler. Pete has written a number of books that would really work well for this age group but Help! is especially good, certainly as I’m sure there are a number of boys who would be able to empathise with the main character who decides he wants to liven school up by betting on as many things as possible. Whether this is how many times a teacher says a certain phrase or if another student would dare turn up to school in a gorilla outfit, everything is considered ‘fair-game’ in the betting world!
When we work with our primary schools one thing that works really well is tying in writing workshops and encouraging the students to create their own pieces. We usually do this alongside a fantasy book or a book that shows how amazing the imagination can be. A couple of books that have worked really well for this have been Sarah Prineas’ Magic Thief and Joseph Delaney’s The Spook’s Apprentice. Both books have great stories to them and are just fantastic reads, but they are also really good examples of the authors coming up with some great ideas around things that students may already be familiar with. So with Delaney it’s about utilising myths and legends and fantastic creatures and with Prineas it’s about the idea we have of magicians and magic and a magical world.