Having a classroom where reading aloud is an embedded part of the daily routine is one of the most important parts of building a school reading culture (alongside dedicating time for independent reading and book-talk).
We all recognise how squeezed the primary curriculum is but, as Aidan Chambers once wrote, ‘You can measure the true strength of a school by how hard it fights to protect reading time against the pressures of the curriculum.’
In my class, I try and have two or three reading-aloud sessions every day, some led by me and some by the pupils. As well as our English lessons, we have Poem of the Day and regular opportunities for children to share non-fiction writing that particularly interests them. We also have a class story, every day, pretty much without fail. It usually takes place straight after lunch to ensure that it isn’t rushed, or even pushed out, at the end of the day.
Having taught Year 5 and 6 pupils for the past few years, here are some of our current favourite read-alouds:
- Freeze by Chris Priestley (Barrington Stoke, 2021) Perhaps not quite as well known as his previous book, Seven Ghosts, but equally as chilling. The perfect winter ghost story! Short and punchy, a story that could easily be read in a week.
- High-Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson (Knights of Media, 2019) A wonderful detective story. My class became absolutely obsessed, noting down clues, motives and suspicious behaviour as we read. A book that’s just bursting with energy.
- Ways To Be Me by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott (Scholastic, 2021) This was our first book of the year. Several children had already read the other two in the series (Can You See Me? and Do You Know Me?) so were extremely excited to enjoy this together. It gives a wonderful insight into how an autistic child views the world.
- The Last Bear by Hannah Gold and illustrated by Levi Penfold (HarperCollins, 2022) Beautifully rich writing and a heart-breaking story of a lonely polar bear. The class were totally enthralled. As well as an extremely engaging story, it delivers an important message about climate change.
(I’m also going to sneak in The Outlaw Varjak Paw by SF Said (Penguin Random House, 2014) and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick Press, 2006). Two absolutely marvellous stories, but our Year 3 and 4 staff are the lucky ones who get to share them with their classes. Maybe next year …)
Author bio: Jon Biddle is a Year 5/6 teacher and English coordinator. You can find Jon on Twitter here @jonnybid