the revised reading framework blog series - jonny rodgers and phoebe demeger
Created: 5th February, 2024

The Revised Reading Framework Blog Series

Building Appreciation for Children’s Literature through Book Clubs

A welcome shift in last July’s Revised Reading Framework was the foregrounding of Reading for Pleasure and the introduction of Book Club (page 95) as ‘a time to recommend books to pupils for class reading and reading at home’. Reading for Pleasure has always been an integral part of CLPE’s fifty years of research and work with schools, as we have always been clear about the benefits it brings to all children. We take this knowledge and find exciting and practical ways for teachers to make it work in their own classrooms and throughout their English curriculum.

Book groups — for pupils and as well as for teachers — help to make reading for pleasure an integral part of a high-quality book-based English curriculum. They encourage all staff to be reading teachers and empower them to create a classroom culture in which children can be influenced to read widely and for pleasure. The more widely and deeply teachers read, the more they can draw on their knowledge of children’s literature and of their children’s reading development and motivations to curate selections of high-quality books in the school and classroom reading environments, to use in planned literacy experiences and to support children’s independent reading, including developing a culture of peer book recommendations. This is how we build the reading habits and reader identity that are key to becoming a lifelong reader.

Our work on book groups is no recent addition, but rather a prominent part of our legacy. Increasing teacher appreciate for and subject knowledge of high-quality children’s literature is a fundamental strand of our flagship Power of Reading programme. We include opportunity for rich booktalk in every session in our training and specific titles to support a teacher book group are included in the teacher book pack participants receive.

And we draw on our extensive experience in this area of literacy and teacher CPD to run OU UKLA and Cheltenham Festival book groups in CLPE’s teacher reference library, packed with the very best children’s literature out there — free to join and always very well attended. And a pleasure to run. Everything that we do to make our adult book groups a success correlates to what the classroom teacher would do for their children.

So what advice would we offer when introducing a teacher book group into your school?

Know your readers

Respect and listen to participants and value their opinions and their recommendations. Rather than dictating anything or being a stage for teaching, you might meet at a round table in a room of equals. Our role is that of the facilitator, the ‘enabling adult’, in the words of our patron Aidan Chambers.

Develop a deep and rich knowledge of our participants’ identities, as readers certainly, but more holistically too. This knowledge deepens as time goes on as you create a space in which they feel comfortable to share their interests as well as what they want to know more about. You might use rivers of reading, polls and questionnaires but, most importantly, listen when they talk and be responsive to their needs.

Give participants choice and voice, not least in what they choose to read. You might develop a session around a genre or theme suggested by the group then compile a shortlist for them to choose from, so a poll decides your next read. This sense of agency is key. For your children, they might select from a subset of books you have curated based on their reading preferences or what you think might gently encourage broader reading experiences.

Our shortlists when asked for picturebooks suitable for KS2, and non-fiction for all primary ages:


Book covers for a selecton of picturebooks appropriate for KS2
Book covers for a selecton of non-fiction titles appropriate for KS1/2

and our poll when the group voted on the verse novels we wanted to read.

Pie chart showing voting for verse novels

Read Aloud and Engage in Book Talk

Begin every session by reading aloud — ‘probably the single most important thing a teacher does’. You might relate it to the text you are about to discuss, for instance, we recently shared Daisy Hirst’s Alphonse, There’s Mud on the Ceiling! as a prelude to Our Tower from Joseph Coelho and Richard Johnson. Or be slightly meta; choose a book about books and the pleasures of reading or being a teacher, e.g., Books Aren't for Eating from Carlie Sorosiak and Manu Montoya, or The Kiosk from Anete Melece, translated by Elῑna Brasliņa ahead of the summer break!

Centre each session around rich discussion of the book, based on Aidan Chambers’ booktalk approach and the simple yet powerful ‘Tell Me’ questions - exploring what we like, what we dislike, what puzzles us and what connections we make - so that we arrive at a shared understanding of the book in which everyone’s contributions are valued.

Develop a culture of recommendation

A book club also functions as a source of book recommendations, a short window of time in which time-pressed teachers can be inspired by new ideas. In addition to discussing one book in depth, and naturally sharing other related titles (by the same author/illustrator, on a similar theme, etc), make a point of flagging the other invaluable ways of staying up-to-date with the latest and greatest publications for children, including:

  • The CLPE Corebooks list, a freely accessible and frequently updated collection of texts carefully chosen to support children’s development as readers
  • Librarian Phoebe’s monthly New Books Round-Up blog on the CLPE website, and associated Instagram series #PhoebesPicks.
  • The value of striking up a relationship with your local librarian or independent bookseller, many of whom will offer tailored recommendations, provide books and class sets at a discount, and arrange author visits to schools
  • Engagement with book awards, shortlists and shadowing schemes (for many of which CLPE writes supporting materials), such as CLPE’s own CLiPPA Poetry Award and Shadowing Scheme for schools
  • Trusted print and online media, and trusted voices and critics within the children’s book world

Build a Community of Readers

Be inclusive. Invite a range of adults to join a school bookgroup or create different groups in which different members of the school community can feel most comfortable; teachers, teaching assistants, the headteacher, parents, governors. What organically develops over our own sessions, with particular thanks to our returning members, is the sense of a community of readers. Our attendees come from a range of professional backgrounds and with differing levels of knowledge around contemporary children’s books. What unites our readers is interest and enthusiasm.

Outside of the ‘official’ book group discussion, it’s always lovely to see conversations struck up between attendees, whether sharing examples of practice or simply, ‘I read this great book recently...’; exactly the culture of peer recommendation you’d want to see in class.

We bring to the session expert knowledge: we know the books, we know the group and we have a solid grounding in the CLPE’s own fifty-year history grounded in Reading for Pleasure. Our sessions feature a depth but most importantly a breadth of reading. Among other genre and themes, we have enjoyed graphic novels, verse novels, non-fiction, poetry, picturebooks, LGBTQ+ literature, traditional tales...

What we do for our group of adults is exactly what a classroom teacher would seek to replicate for their groups of children. From the feedback, we know our book group participants feel it benefits their practice and that they really enjoy taking part; that they come back year after year, suggests they see the value in it.

Book groups can be transformational for teachers as well as for their children.

How we can help:

  • You might want to explore the Books tab of our website, especially the Corebooks selection to suit readers of all ages and stages of reading development and the Power of Reading book recommendations to include in a rich and inclusive English Curriculum.
  • You might want to develop teacher subject knowledge, including of high-quality diverse children’s literature by engaging in our in-depth Power of Reading training course. Course bookings are already being taken for our first online and face-to-face cohorts of the new academic year.
  • You might want to join one of CLPE’s book groups next academic year, and by signing up for our newsletter or following us on social media you will be notified when we start to recruit, and can register your interest.