Our Experts Answer Your Questions

« Back

I am a teacher of boys ages 7-9 in a mixed year group primary class. I would like to encourage the boys to read a selection of fun stuff but am unsure where to look online for free resources. Can you recommend any free websites which preferably also provide an audio option?

Audiobook recordings are subject to copyright so you’re unlikely to find a legal recording of the entire text of a contemporary children’s book online. But there are lots of fun free audio and other resources connected with books that the boys in your class should enjoy, mostly created by the publishers.

Andy Stanton’s hilarious Mr Gum series, winner of the Blue Peter Book Award for ‘most fun story’ and the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, is just right for boys aged 7-9. Check out the ‘Fun & Games’ section of www.mrgum.co.uk, find your earplugs and let your pupils loose on the Lamonic Bibber Soundboard which is packed with audio files of Mr Gum’s catchphrases, belches and worse. You could read the books to the class yourself, and ask the boys to provide sound effects from the Soundboard.

Boys who are unwilling to tackle an entire Mr Gum book (although they are short, punchy and unintimidating) might be lured into his grotesque world by issues of The Lamonical Chronicle, the supremely silly newspaper covering Mr Gum’s home town, which is free to download. And if your budget can stretch to an audiobook, Kate Winslet has recorded four of the nine titles.

www.roalddahl.com features an interview with Roald Dahl and an audio clip of the author reading The BFG (select the interview in the section called The Man – The BFG clip is number 11). The site is stuffed with teaching resources and a guide to Dahl’s books will help you decide which titles your pupils will enjoy: you can’t go far wrong with The Twits and The Witches.

And see www.puffinvirtuallylive.co.uk/author/roalddahlday for an interactive webcast with not only Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake, but David Walliams as the BFG. Puffin is building up a resource bank of webcasts with top authors, all about 40 or 45 minutes long. Those most likely to lead your pupils to new reading adventures are with Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) and Eoin Colfer (there’s an interview about Artemis Fowl already available, with a new webcast about Eoin’s new series, WARP, coming on April 17). You can either register with www.puffinvirtuallylive.co.uk to join in the webcast live, or watch all the previous webcasts on the site or on YouTube.

Jeremy Strong is an author with lots of potential for your class with his comic series (Krazy Kow, My Brother’s Famous Bottom, The Hundred-Mile-an-Hour Dog and more) covering the whole key stage 2 age range. At www.jeremystrong.co.uk you’ll find fun quizzes and activities plus a downloadable pack with 18 one-hour lesson plans.

Caroline Lawrence’s P K Pinkerton mysteries, The Case of the Deadly Desperadoes and The Case of the Good-Looking Corpse, combine elements of two exciting genres with plenty of boy appeal, the Western and the detective story. With short chapters ending in cliffhangers, a young detective hero who is himself a mystery and all the perils of  a Wild West frontier town in the 1860s, there is plenty to attract readers with a thirst for adventure. The series not only has its own website, www.pkpinkerton.com, but a blog http://tomboycowgirl.blogspot.co.uk/ where Caroline documents her research into the world of P K. There are no audio resources at present, but plenty of visual references and ideas for playing with the language and characters of Virginia City, Nevada, where P K does his best to foil the baddies.

www.culturestreet.org.uk  includes interactive workshops on illustration, comic making and picture book making as well as a series of short films on books and authors including the South African comic book makers Umland Wezithombe, working on a comic book biography of Nelson Mandela.

Finally, audio files of many out-of-copyright children’s classics can be downloaded free from www.booksshouldbefree.com. If you think your boys might enjoy listening to Treasure Island, The Jungle Book, Just William or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, you’ll find them all here.