by Louise Johns-Shepherd
For a book to be on our Power of Reading list it has to have many distinct and different elements. We work to put together a collection that contains books that are emotionally powerful; books with storylines and plots that allow opportunities to explore dilemmas, challenges, morality and ethics; protagonists that children can identify with. But above all, texts take you inescapably into the world of the book - a book you can lose yourself in. Every year our collection showcases a breadth of types of texts as well: narrative, poetry, traditional tales, texts with powerful illustrations, and interesting non-fiction texts.
All the books we choose have to lend themselves to sustained study in a primary classroom. We need to be able to see where we can offer in depth and real writing experiences, meaningful study of literary styles and rhythms, opportunities for response that is creative and open-ended, all whilst keeping children engaged with the characters and the story as a whole.
In Power of Reading sequences we don’t shoehorn in grammar tricks or comprehension exercises. The power of the study, the reason teachers tell us children are motivated and engaged to be readers and writers, is because the teaching sequences respect the authenticity of the text, scaffolding understanding and subject knowledge, showing children examples of real and powerful writing and text construction from which they can learn.
All through the year we collect new books we think could work on our Power of Reading programme. The selection day is always fraught and never pretty. We are all passionate about books and literature, we are all keen readers and recent teachers with firm ideas about what we want to see in the collections. For it to be considered at least three of us (teachers and librarians) have to agree. We have to consider individual choices and the balance of the whole collection, make sure we have a range of text types, a range of authors, a balance of the new and the classic and books that reflect the realities of children in our classrooms. For each year group collection we only choose 12 books to go in the packs that teachers who come on our Power of Reading training get to take away with them.
We have to be ruthless and that sometimes means we aren’t always happy. It’s hard when you love a book and someone else says “but I just can’t see the sequence” But, once we’ve completed it, we all know that the selection is the best it can be and we are duly proud.
Books that aren’t in the physical pack but have been so before aren’t discarded – they live on the CLPE Membership which now has nearly 200 sequences of work representing more than 100 authors, illustrators and poets.